My local chain fabric store closed a few years ago, and I complain that all I can buy in town are basic fabrics and notions… but the contributors in this post put me to shame! They all live at least an hour from the nearest fabric store, and today they are sharing their tips and tricks for living #sewremote! — Gillian
I definitely fit into the category of #sewremote, living as I do on a small Scottish island!
I live on South Uist, which is across the country from my nearest brick-and-mortar fabric shops. Glasgow is a flight away, but that flight still takes almost an hour, not including the time sitting in the airport and waiting for the small plane to depart. There are ferries that connects us to the mainland in two locations, but they take up to 6 hours, and then there’s the road journey to get to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
This means planning is a must!! My family lives near Edinburgh, which means that I visit those shops whenever I’m in that locale. However, it’s expensive to get off island and I only do it a couple of times a year. I’d rather spend money on fabric!! This means that most of my fabric comes to me in the post, as well as the thread, the zips, and any other odds and ends that I need.
The downside is that often times I have a creative burst and am missing something. And if that something’s a small thing, I’m not ordering it via post. It’s too expensive and £3 delivery on top of £3 for thread just makes it ridiculous. I’m becoming more attuned to using what I have and just making it work. I always make sure to order good interfacing — more than I need — as it’s the one thing I cannot replace with something else. With a small personal haberdashery, I ‘shop the stash’ more often than not. It also encourages me to become a fixer, rather than a thrower-outer. Something that will hopefully stand me in good stead for this year of fasting from RTW.
It’s not a hindrance, rather it’s a slight irritation in being able to live and work in one of the most inspiring places ever. I’m happy to be more than an hour from a fabric shop, if it means Uist’s beaches and wildlife is within easy reach.
Find out more about me and my makes at www.heatherymakes.wordpress.com.
I have sewed for about twenty years now, mostly quilts and home dec. But last year, I had this overwhelming urge to learn how to sew garments. I do have a bit of a challenge though. I live in a rural area in northern Minnesota. I know no one locally who sews clothes and there are no fabric or sewing shops beyond some small quilt shops an hour away and a big box store. I also have limited access to the internet so I want to use the time I have online to get in and get out quickly.
My biggest challenge is sourcing appropriate fabric. I got a Spoonflower sample pack but they are so small that I can’t tell how they actually drape or sew. I ordered swatches from Mood fabric as well, which I totally recommend doing before a big purchase if you have a limited budget and want to see colors and feel the fabric first. I could really use recommendations for other online shops that do swatches, so please let me know of any in the comments. Beyond that, I play around with refashioning thriftstore finds.
I am more apt to buy from an online store that will suggest matching thread and zippers, or has them available at least, as well as other supplies for a project. I also lean towards fabric shops that show drape, pattern suggestions, clothing type suggestions or washing instructions (there’s no dry cleaners in the woods!). I am pretty careful about making sure that I pick up all the notions needed before I start a project. This is fairly standard in everything in my life as it is for most folks that live off the beaten path.
Though it feels like I have access to smaller online fabric stores through Instagram, when I ask them questions, like “would this fabric work for ______ pattern?” I generally don’t get an answer, which would make things so much easier. Also, I would love it if patterns with very specific notion requirements, like jeans and undergarments, listed places where you could buy them. I am more likely to buy patterns if I have a few easy leads where I can buy the required materials.
Do you have limited access to sewing stores? What tips do you have? Do people ask you annoying questions like “Why don’t you just move?”
Torina posts about sewing, nature and her fabulous cat, Janis Joplin, on Instagram @torinawashere.
I live on an outlying island in Hong Kong, so it’s about 1.5 hours from my door to me feeling fabric in my hands in the markets or shops. It’s only around 12 miles as the crow flies, but the journey is a tad convoluted and so I don’t do it specifically for fabric that often.
But if I want something in particular, or I am in that part of Hong Kong, I will make the trip and I do really enjoy parts of the journey. Being a parent to a 3.5 year old and an 8 month old, simply being on my own with a book and a coffee feels like a treat. Heading into my favourite shop in Central Hong Kong involves driving, then taking a 30 minute ferry ride and then walking uphill in the tropical humidity. It’s a mission, but I confess that I just love chugging through the South China Sea and watching the massive container ships coming into Hong Kong! It has been over 6 years since I moved here, and I still love the aesthetic of those unwieldy, colourful beasts!
Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to make the journey often, so I end up shopping online quite a bit, especially for haberdashery as I find it difficult to find exactly what I want in Hong Kong with the limited time periods I have for solo shopping. This can involve pitfalls like ordering a fabric for a specific project and then it arriving and being slightly too sheer, or too thin, or without the right drape. My fabric stash is rather unwieldy for exactly this reason. I am trying to be better at shopping my stash or buying where I can feel the fabric or see enough reviews to know what I am getting, but then someone will post looking amazing in their latest makes and I get sucked right back into browsing and buying fabric again!
Sophy posts her sewing, and the very occasional piece of knitwear, on instagram as Sophy_Sews_HK. She’s one of the current group of editors here at the Sewcialists.
Thank you for reading all of our stories! Sewing while far away from a fabric store tends to mean you have to get creative and be patient with your projects! As always with Who We Are posts, I hope that reading gives you insight into other people’s lives, and also confidence to talk about your own experiences. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Torina – I would suggest Fabric Mart if you’re looking for fabric/pattern/notions/interfacing. If you call the store they do answer questions and I find they’re generally helpful all around as well as having quality fabric for great prices. I would also recommend Gorgeous Fabrics. Ann is an experienced sewist who can answer your questions and is good about drape and fabric handling. She does have some limited notions but no zippers/thread. Hope these help!
Thank you! These are fantastic recommendations! I signed up for their newsletters.
And I thought that my mountaintop was remote! My one and only ‘fashion’ fabric store (Joanne’s) is an hour away, and the larger cities (1 1/2+ hrs away) oddly have no independent shops. Online fabric shopping has been frustrating, but has gotten better with time and experience.
Like Heather in Scotland, I also live on an remote island. I’m on the maritime border between Washington State and British Columbia, which mades fabric shopping inconvenient in two countries. I do, however, have a handful of favorite online fabric retailers. One of which I like so much that, in 2018, I bought it! So now, not only do I #sewremote but I #BuySellAndShipRemote, too.
That’s really cool! What’s the name of your shop, Michelle?
It IS really cool! I’m currently in the creative whirlwind of re-branding and building a new website, which is super fun. You can see the existing site at FabricAndArt.com. Peek in from time to time to check the progress and feel free to give feedback. I love hearing from lovers of fabric. <3
Good for you for persevering with such remote locations! I wonder – are there any sewing communities in your areas you could lean on for those moments when you need thread or a bit of interfacing or something else?
I don’t have anyone nearby that sews garments but my mother-in-law is a quilter and lives a mile away.
I am not at all remote, and I’m very impressed by all of you and your commitment to sewing! Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL, https://www.voguefabricsstore.com/ does a great job of answering questions and making suggestions about their fabrics, they’ve got an excellent selection and do swatches in the mail, as well as seasonal swatch catalogs. I often order online from them despite being relatively nearby in suburban Chicago since the shipping is reasonable and worth avoiding the hour drive up North, and because I trust the quality of their fabrics.
I will check them out! Thank you!
I tend to sew certain TNT’s over and over as they wear out, usually only sewing about one thing a month. And I mostly buy fabric online.
I print out the website page describing the fabric, and staple a swatch of the actual fabric to it. I add any notes to remind myself why I liked, or didn’t like the fabric. When I find a fabric I like, I tend to re-purchase it another time instead of searching for something similar that might or might not work.
For knits, I’ve had good luck with Kaufman Laguna Stretch Cotton –
It’s not too thin and works well for my elbow length TNT tees:
These are fantastic tips! Thank you!
I live on a rural property in Australia and can relate to this post. I have a sizeable fabric collection, mostly given to me, which I sew from. I can sometimes buy dress fabrics from a thrift shop. When the opportunity arises to visit a fabric shop I buy plenty of interfacing, elastic, threads in basic colours etc. For buying particular fabrics, the most useful thing has been a connection with a salesperson at a fabric shop, who I can ring up and will send me samples – that personal service with the same person each time is invaluable.
I have only just made my first purchase from Blackbird Fabrics, but I like their Instagram feed that shows new fabrics, sometimes in motion, and often with a post of several specific patterns they think it would work with. They also will do a swatch service–I don’t know how big, but I think I will use it to find out just what some unfamiliar (to me) fabrics are like!
Sometimes you can’t get a swatch, for some of their fabrics sell out. Quickly.
Try Hart’s fabric in the US as they will send photos, explanations, and swatches! I wanted leggings fabric and they sent photos of the fabric stretched over an open hand in sunlight to show how opaque it was!! That’s *helpful*!!