Wednesday December 30th 2015

Hunting the Elusive Fabric

Have you ever run out of  a fabric when you were in the midst of a project? Have you ever been fabric shopping and fallen in love with a fabric but,  just couldn’t make up your mind about buying it — and then when you returned it was gone?

I have had so many quilt shop owners tell me about customers who call and write who are desperately seeking a special fabric.  Sometimes they only have a description like, “it’s white with pink flowers and a squiggle.” Sometimes they have a one inch square of  fabric to match. The shop owners try to help, but often they just don’t have enough information to work from.  When they have  thousands of bolts of fabrics in their stores, finding “a white fabric with pink flowers and a squiggle” is like hunting the proverbial “needle in a haystack.”

Here are some hints for making your fabric searches easier. First, always carry a small notebook when you go fabric shopping. (I always have one in my purse– because you never know when that fabric shopping urge may hit.) While you are at your fabric store, jot down as much of the following information as you can from the label at the top of the bolt: manufacturer’s name (ex: Hoffman, Moda, Northcott), item # (ex: 1622-410056-413), and the color name, if given. Then write a short description of the fabric.

Even if you decide not to buy the fabric right then, if you come back later and it’s gone, you will be able to tell the shop owner exactly what you are looking for. You will also be able to look the fabric manufacturer up on-line and possibly be able to print a picture of the fabric you were looking at. This will make it much easier for the shop owner to try and reorder the fabric for you.

If you do buy the fabric take another step which may seem like a lot of trouble, but will really pay off in the long run. Cut a swatch of the fabric big enough to show the color and motif and permanently affix it to the back of an index card. A fabric glue stick works great for this. On the front of the card, put the information from the bolt end, how much you bought, from where, and the date. You will find the information invaluable if you ever need to buy the fabric again.

When you complete your quilt or project, take the fabric cards that you used in the quilt and group them together. You will have a complete record of the fabrics used and the yardage you bought, as well as future historical documentation of your quilt.

Do you have other favorite ways to keep track of your fabrics? Looking forward to hearing from you.

Suzan @ AQS

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9 Comments for “Hunting the Elusive Fabric”

  • brenda z. says:

    When I buy fabric at a quilt show or from a shop, I ask for a business card and write on the back what fabrics I bought. This way I can keep track of where I bought the fabric.
    When I purchase fabric online,I print out the receipt (usually has pix of the fabrics) and keep it in a folder;when the fabric arrives with its receipt, I add that to the one I printed out and I have all my fabric info.
    For those who dont know,when you are desperate and cant find that fabric that you just ran out of, or must have, is a great site for asking other quilters if they have some they would sell you.
    Another site is With one search you can access hundreds of online shops to find your fabric.

  • Myra McFarland says:

    I have a couple of strategies re: fabric buying. (1) if you’re not sure about a fabric, go ahead and purchase 1/3 yard, about $2-$3. You can always piece it into a scrap quilt if you don’t use it for its original intended purchase. (2) Purchase an inexpensive (about $3-$4) 4×6-inch photo album. Write the manufacurer’s info on a 3×5 card and slip into a pocket with a generous snip of the fabric. Add snips of other fabrics already collected for the quilt glued or staped to a card and a photocopy of the pattern, fabric requirements, etc. (3) When you’ve finished the quilt, add a photo of the finished item for a permanent record. (4) Always purchase an extra 1/3 yard of fabric you really love. Cut it into strips, squares, triangles, etc., in coordinated sizes (I use 3.5- and 2-inch squares) that can quickly be put together for emergency gifts or other quick, relatively simple projects.

  • Mary Alice Bates says:

    I am more likely to cut the information strip from the edge of the fabric along with a “swatch” from the scraps. To it I affix the receipt showing when and where it was purchased. Cuz, like many, I buy way to far ahead and always have several projects going at one time.

    My best source, however, has sold her store, and although the new owners are good, I do miss Trudy Hughes!

  • Chris Groendyk says:

    Another item to help you identify the fabric is in the selvidge. You can see the manufacturer, name of the design, when it was designed,and the color dots so you can match up other fabrics for your project. Cut the selvidges off and put them on an index card, as others have suggested or in a binder.

  • Roxan says:

    I am looking for fabric to make a quilt for my grandaughter who will graduate from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville Texas next summer?? I have no idea wher to find any fabric…I know there is a quilt shop in Spring TX but do not know the name of it??? Can any one help me learn more??

  • Barbara says:

    The internet is a wonderful tool. If you have at least SOME information about the fabric you seek, Google “fabric search” and you will find links for,,,, etc., all great resources.

  • Jan Andrews says: has a huge listing of shops that sell discontinued and current fabrics online. I’ve been bailed out of a shortage more than once using their vendors.

  • Anita Stuever says:

    Instead of taking notes and trying to make sketches at fabric stores, just use your smartphone or digital camera to take a photo of the fabric. Borrow a 6-inch ruler from the notions section and include it in the photo. You can also photograph the manufacturer’s information on the salvage and the information on the bolt end.

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