Experiences and favorite shops (EU)
Online fabric shopping and the difficulties in finding good fabric sources for doll projects
When I started sewing as a girl there was no internet. It was either upcycling old clothes or the only fabric store in town. Tearing, well-worn fabric, faded prints and a lot of remnants or spending a lot of money on fabric that never quite met my needs. I still use human clothes as a fabric source occasionally, but since I often have very specific ideas of what I want, I like to buy new fabric for my dolly sewing projects.
These days the difficulties in finding fabric for doll clothes amongst the huge selection on the web are of a different nature but nonetheless challenging. After I reorganized all my stash I decided to write something about fabric shopping and I hope it might be helpful.
The text was written, but Roux didn’t have a set of plain white underwear I wanted for this picture.
I had to make it first, so this post took longer than expected.
Sewing vocabulary: What was that pattern called again?
Like every craft sewing comes with it’s own technical terms, and if you don’t want to restrict your search to national shops you’ll want the English term. While finding the name of a fabric type is comparatively easy, it gets especially tricky when it comes to patterns.
For some I wouldn’t even know what they are called in my native language, let alone the English name. A bit like flowers and their national common names versa botanical names. A helpful glossary of fashion vocabulary can be found on the fashion blog Enerie. Or just search for ‘fashion vocabulary+patterns’ on Pinterest and you get all the pattern names you want. Another source of all things sewing related: sewguide.com
But even with the right search term you still have to find the shop that actually offers what you want and doesn’t just pop up in the results with nothing to show for.
Textile temptations everywhere – but if you don’t want to spend hours searching Ebay, Etsy and at least 10 online shops and a fortune on shipping every time it’s actually harder than it looks.
Most fabric stores cater to the needs of human sized sewing projects and sell with a minimum purchase length, which often means you have to buy a lot more fabric than you require for your small dolly project.
Fat Quarters or half metres are a perfect size for most smaller projects, but a lot of shops start at a metre minimum. Or they only sell bundles of patterns you have to buy to get that one pattern you want.
And most shops offer a large variety of fabrics, but only a very limited selection of patterns or colors in each category – the same prints you come across in every second shop. And most of the patterns come in a scale that is far too large to work for doll clothes. Since only a few pictures come with a coin or something similar as a size reference, pattern sizes can be quite surprising.
Ebay budget bargains are mostly disappointing. Fabrics with flaws in weaving, stripy fabric cut diagonally, fabric cut way below the ordered measurements or so careless that it looks like something the dog played with. Cat pee and cigarette smoke smell or faded spots from daylight storage. Flimsy misprinted material that bleeds, shrinks or is just a nuisance to work with and other mispurchases are part of the learning curve, as well as outrageously overpriced fabrics on Etsy.
So how do I find the suitable fabric for my seams, hopes and aspirations?
Choosing the suitable fabric grammage
I don’t want my fabric too lightweight or too heavy. 230-250gr/m² grammage is the perfect weight for dolly jersey-needs, and cotton poplin works best for me with 120-150gr/m².
Ultra-light, gauzy fabric is not only harder to work with, the body blush shines through, and while heavy high quality cotton would be my choice for human sized projects, doll clothes would look a bit bulky.
Using fabrics that look like the ‘real deal’ for human sized clothes but are thinner and lighter also helps.
Chambray instead of denim for jeans, baby cord for pants instead of the similar looking heavier fabric. Black foil jersey looks like PU leather and micro suede knit like suede. Polycotton might be a better choice if you hate ironing, and viscose makes for a bit of shine.
For most heavy human project fabrics you can find a similar looking lighter fabric, the summer version for doll needs, so to speak. With resin dolls stains from dark fabric are an issue, and I usually pre-wash new fabric without detergent by hand in luke-warm water. It’s a good way to spot a ‘bleeder’.
My personal favorites for most of my doll projects are cotton jersey and cotton and I am a sucker for old fashioned ditsy floral poplin. Which is actually really hard to find, most flower prints are just too large or bold for dolls.
Perfectly doll-sized pattern Mini Daisy. Fat quarter poplin from AlwaysKnitting&Sewing
My favorite shops
What I want are a few select shops with decent quality fabrics and reasonable pricing that cover all my basic requirements. And I found them.
Over the years I found my go-to sellers for haberdashery and a couple of fabric shops, one is a local real shop and these are my two favorite online shops.
My one-stop shop for all my basic fabric needs
It’s a Dutch/German shop that often offers the exact same pattern and color for jersey as well as cotton, and if you want to combine a jersey top with a matching skirt that’s a great help. Even though they specialize in prints for kids, the basic color selection is very good – and if you are a fan of dots, stars and/or cute kid prints you’ll find plenty. Small geometrical patterns and flowers are available, too. They added other fabrics over the years and I’ve ordered chambray, cord, muslin, PU-leather and the occasional satin and lace. I have never been disappointed and frequently check the sales. In all the years I never had reason to contact them, so I can’t tell how quickly they respond.
The poplin/jersey is mostly medium or light weight, a good, tight weave that usually doesn’t shrink or bleed much. They have almost always some sort of sale going on, and the minimum purchase length is 0.5 metres.
The shop language is German/Dutch, but Google Translate helps with that. Dutch is closer to English, so you might be able to understand it even without a translation. Items arrive neatly folded, cleanly cut, often presented with a ribbon and quickly.
Extensive collection of florals in fat quarters and half metres
It’s a UK-based shop and perfect for the small sewing project. They offer more small floral cotton prints than any other shop I’ve come across, and I just love the colors and patterns. A lot of the patterns are perfectly doll-sized and wonderfully vintage. And if you are looking for inspiration what might be a good match the fabric bundles are very helpful.
They offer fabric bundles as well as choice patterns and the selection is almost overwhelming. Most cotton fabrics can be ordered as half metre and/or fat quarter, which is very convenient. Grammage is not listed, but you can expect nice quality, soft light weight poplin, most of it Rose&Hubble fabric with 130gr/m² – a perfect fabric weight for doll clothes. A coin in most pictures helps with the pattern size.
Part 3 of the birthday haul. Lovely floral poplin from AlwaysKnittingandSewing
A word of warning though: AlwaysKnittingandSewing started out as an ebay shop, and the online shop still lacks basic functionalities you might expect. If you are looking for a way to create a customer account with an order history or wish list, tracking numbers or other options: They were still working on it when I ordered my fabrics.
Don’t let it hold you back – ordering works perfectly well and what the shop might lack in functionality they make up for in friendly customer service. Shipping costs are added during checkout, and you can create an account (even if there’s not really a way to access it afterwards, at least I haven’t found one). Orders come in a plastic bag. The fat quarters are neatly cut and folded. Rose&Hubble poplin usually doesn’t bleed at all, even darker colors wash very well. It’s very sewing machine friendly and easy to work with fabric.
Update 2021: They seem to have closed the ebay shop. And I am pretty sure the online shop functionality has much improved by now.
Very informative post! I love tiny florals so I'll be sure to look into Always Knitting and Sewing. One source I like to use when searching for tiny prints is quilt shows. I'm embarrassed to say I tend to ignore the quilts and go right to the vendor exhibits, which bring together the wares of many fabric shops in the region–and often beyond. I'm going to a show this weekend. Hope to find lots of goodies there.
Thank you :). It's too bad shipping costs to the US tend to be rather high. But if you have a chance to see and touch the fabric, all the better. I'd much rather do that, but shows like that are pretty much non-existant over here. I hope you do find lots of goodies and I can read what you got.
This is exactly my problem!! I had to make a journal with fabric names and small smaples, because I keep forgetting them. And since I cannot buy them online, trying to buy a fabric when I only know the English name (because it was probably suggested by someone or I found it on a post) is always challenging!
The glossary you shared is really useful, thank you! However, since I buy the fabric from local shops, I've been able to buy as small as 25cm or 30cms, which are good enough for doll projects.
Those shops you recommended are really tempting! Sadly the customs fees here are just too high T_T
If you have a local shop you have the great advantage of real life shopping- you can just take a sample and tell them you want something in this style. And you can browse remnants. I wish there were more actual shops nearby. But I am glad you found it helpful. 🙂