Sourcing and buying fabric you like can be a little difficult, but perseverence does pay off in the end!
Patchworking or quilting fabrics are really popular amongst crafters, the 100% cotton fibre feels wonderful and is great to work with, the prints are many and varied, and it's easy to buy small amounts, stash it away, and figure out what to make from it later.
The main problem I have with quilting fabric is that I am VERY picky when it comes to pattern. I prefer bolder, brighter styles, have an aversion (in most cases) to floral, and despise pink. Many many many quilting fabrics don't fall into this category. Luckily though, there are some designers that favour bold prints, and the new generation of crafters are inspiring a greater variety of fabrics, rather than your traditional pinks, muddy colours, tiny florals and such.
One of my favourite designers, Denyse Schmidt, makes a gorgeous range of bright cotton prints with vintage influences that I really love. The fabrics are a little lighter in weight than I am used to, but the prints are GORGEOUS.
So, advice number one, find some designers you really like, and follow their collections. That being said, ONLY buy fabrics you love, or think you can love. There's no point buying a whole stack of Amy Butler prints if you hate the colourways. Buying designer fabric just because it's designer is just as absurd to me as spending the equivalent of a small house on a handbag just because it's a Vuitton. You might have fashionista cred, but your handbag will still be fucking ugly!
Tip number two: Buy Online. In Australia, the average price for quilting cotton is around 20 - 25 dollars a metre. Online, the same fabric sells for anywhere between US$5 - $20 a yard. In most cases, even including postage, exchange rate, and yards versus metres, The fabric I buy online ends up costing me about half the price it would if I bought it retail in Australia. This is a real pity for me, I would much prefer to go to the fabulous local quilting shop and buy up a storm, but the reality is, I just can't afford to.
Instead, I frequent a few select online fabric stores that come highly recommended by other crafters, and have always provided me with consistently good product and service. A few of my favourites?
Superbuzzy specialises in japanese fabrics, notions, books and supplies, stocks a brilliant range of weird and wonderful bits and pieces, and every time you order something, they send you some Japanese lollies as well! The fabrics I used in my pincushion tutorial are both from Superbuzzy - Some of thier fabrics are a bit cutesy-poo for me, but they do stock some great bright, graphic prints as well.
Repro Depot sell a fantastic rance of vintage and retro themed fabric, buttons, patches, trim and notions. They always have something on sale, and unlike other stores, the sale bin usually has something good in it, rather than just the ugly fabric no-one wants to buy!
Another fabric store I love is Z and S Fabrics. They sell lots of my favourite designers, have a good turnaround on new fabrics, and a range that is so big, I can't even get my head around it.
I have purchased fabrics from all of these stores, and can personally recommend them. There are loads of others, feel free to look at them too, but I'm sticking to places I have actually bought fabric from for this post....
Tip Number Three - Don't forget the Op Shop. Thrifted fabric is brilliant. It's cheap, varied, compatible with re-use and re-cycle ethics, and usually of a nature that you will not find anywhere else. Keep an eye out in your favourite thrift shops, it's amazing how much fabric is out there if you look for it.
Depending on what it is that you make, don't forget to rummage through not only the fabric bin, but the sheets and linens, tea towels and blankets. Clothing can be cut up and made into other things, especially fabric heavy items like skirts, sarongs, shawls and dresses. Wool jumpers or sweaters can be felted in the washing machine with soap and hot water, and used to make other things. At the op shop, anything is possible. Learn to see the fabric, not the ugly outfit. Some of my favourite fabrics have been found in the op shop, and you'll usually get much larger amounts of fabric too!
Tip Number Four: Your bog-standard fabric shop. I still routinely drop into Lincraft and Spotlight, and never leave Ikea without at least a metre of fabric under my arm. These places are full of mass produced shit, but sometimes there's a gem in there that you'll die over.
On one of my last Spotlight visits I got 5 metres of lightweight linen for $2 a metre because it was old summer stock.
The fabric at Ikea is big and bright and bold, cheap as, and heavyweight cotton drill to boot. Perfect for furnishings and cushions, things you might get sick of in six months and want to change. There's no shame in a chain store, just remember to ONLY BUY FABRIC YOU ACTUALLY LIKE!!!!! Same rules apply as for designer - don't buy it just because it's cheap! Only buy it if you really like it or you know EXACTLY what you're going to use it for!
Well, that's it. The Mega Fabric Post!
My only last peice of advice is: don't be afraid to buy fabric, don't worry about what it was before, never mind if you don't know exactly what you're going to make out of it (as long as you love it, that is!), and when you get it home, don't be afraid to cut into it!
I hope that's been of some help to those of you who asked.....