COVID 19, and the variety of shutdowns because of it, have caused issues for a lot of people. My issues are somewhat minor in comparison to a lot of people. I did not lose my job, as a lot of people have, and while my school job is tricky to do from a distance, it can be done. I can also still make dolls, though this is actually where I have run into some issues. While I do buy some doll making supplies online, I buy fabrics mostly in person. It is hard to know is something is going to work in miniature unless you can touch it and see how it drapes, stretches, doesn't stretch, and so on. When Massachusetts shut down, Joann's closed. And I started to run out of things. Sometimes I can find a way to work around it. And sometimes I end up with all the wrong fabric.
I found out very quickly that while I LOVE shopping IN Joann's, I hate Joann.com. The site is user friendly but they will not allow you to buy less than 2 yards of fabric. 2 yards of any fabric I use for doll making is likely to last me for years. Literally. Plus it is $7.99 for shipping. On every order. Even if they were out of something and you had to get it the next day. They have no free shipping threshold like most websites have these days. You do what you have to do when you don't have a lot of good choices. I was pretty much out of the fabric I use for breeches. The fabric that Joann's has had on the shelf easily for the last 10 years. I could not find it on the website (not that I was totally sure what it was anyway) so I found what looked like it might be a good color and a reasonable substitute.
Eventually the fabric arrived and it was awful! It was a weird flesh color, though not a flesh color that any healthy person would ever actually have. It also was a 4 ways stretch, which I despise for doll making. You always end up with a weird sort of scalloped looking seam with that type of fabric. I figured I was stuck with it and I was kind of mad. I had 2 yards of useless fabric.
Not only did I have useless fabric, I didn't think about returning it (I NEVER return fabric) for awhile and when I did think of it I realized I didn't have a packing slip. It was either not included or stuck in the bag that I threw out. I emailed Joann's customer service and eventually found out I could return it to a store, when they reopened, with the packing slip or the confirmation email with the order number. I could not find the order in my order history on Joann.com. This was some really frustrating, ugly fabric. So while I love Joann stores, I really don't like their website.
I still needed fabric for breeches so I went to ebay next. I ordered from a couple of different places, pretty convinced that I would finally have the fabric I need, in a usable color. This first one was a cotton beige knit interlock fabric. Knit! That is what I need, I know it! And beige seems right. Plus the fabric probably would arrive quickly, which was important. And it did arrive fairly quickly... but it is also sort of the wrong fabric. It is a bit thicker than I like and not particularly stretchy. But the color is good and it stretches enough that I can use it for breeches until I find something that is exactly right.
At the same time I ordered the knit interlock I ordered several colors of this anti pill jersey knit technical fabric. It was coming from the UK, so I knew it would be awhile, which is why I ordered the knit interlock. I was excited with the color options and was pretty positive this would be perfect and I would have plenty of stuff for breeches and polo shirts. Just what I needed.
I was right, it took awhile for the fabrics to get here from the UK. And they are awful. Also barely any stretch. And they are weirdly thin. I have not tried them out for anything yet so I don't know if they are completely useless or just sort of useless. I'll find out eventually. But jersey knit should mean stretch, shouldn't it?
I was so ridiculously frustrated with fabric buying, and striking out over and over, I decided to go to Spoonflower and put in a custom order. Now Spoonflower is an amazing website for custom fabric. Be careful if you go there and make sure you have a lot of time, you will need it. The search format is not awesome. If you have a design you have made and you wanted it printed on fabric, they would be the ones to go to. When you find the designs you want (save them!) they are very easy to order. But to search generically for designs that would work in model horse scale will take a lot of time. And be careful to check the measurement pictures of each design you like. A lot of the artists will shrink (or enlarge) their designs if you message them. I have not had that done. I should look into it.
Anyway, I decided my need for breech fabric was great enough that I would spend a chunk of money on custom printed fabric to make sure I got what I wanted. I knew the material I liked for breeches and I figured that ordering solid beige and light khaki would work out well. They were expensive but the colors looked right (at the time...) and I would finally have the fabric I so desperately needed.
But that idea doesn't really fit in this post.
My order arrived and solid beige was actually pretty much cream and light khaki was yellow. Maybe a slightly dirty yellow, but yellow. I had just spent way too much money on fabric that was not usable (the khaki) only sort of usable (the beige) and non-returnable. My frustration was real. I do still love Spoonflower. You just really need to have a ton of time to search through all the stuff.
My Joann's is open again though they are only allowed to sell mask making supplies. Elecktra's friend Sam (my inside source) tells me that on the current reopening plan our state is on, we will not be allowed access to all of the store for probably another 6 weeks. At least. They also are still out of stock on the knit fabric that I super need for breeches (but they are allowed to sell even though it's knit...) though they have had that fabric, in that color, for at least a decade. Anyway, no matter any way you look at it, I was not going to be allowed to buy any sort of mesh fabric, which is what I need for the front pockets on my saddle bags. I have had the piece I used for years, and now I am out. Of course I am, now is the worst time to run out of things, which means it must be time to run out of everything! So since mesh of any type was not going to be sold to me in person for weeks I moved the party online. Again.
My first choice of where to look was Field's Fabrics. I don't order much of a variety from them, mostly just ultrasuede, but I know they are much more reasonable than Joann.com and will sell me smaller increments of fabric. So even if I
screw up choose the wrong thing, I probably won't waste too much money. I ordered some mask making supplies from them probably about a month ago. They had elastic (though they did not the last I checked) no interfacing, but some cute fabrics and, of course, ultrasuede. So I ordered a bunch of stuff. This time though I was on a different mission. Still looking for fabric for breeches, but also the mesh. I can't just leave the pockets off the bags, that's not what I do. And they do have what looks like the perfect mesh fabric. I can get 1/4 of a yard and it will cost me about $1.50. But they didn't have any knit in the correct color and shipping on just that one piece of fabric would be silly.
Here's the part of the post where I tell you the idea to compare the websites was my sister Cathy's idea. Though I think she had in mind more of a nice guide to which websites are easy to use and which are harder. This is more of a list of small disasters in relation to buying fabric online. But I guess I can talk about the websites.
Cathy asked if I had tried Fabric.com. I didn't even think I had ever heard of fabric.com, though it came right up in the search bar on my phone when I started typing it in. I must have gone there in my journeys already. I can not tell you a whole ton about Fabric.com because I haven't done much with the site. I can say it is super easy to use. You can shop by type of fabric, color family, both. I did find a bunch of stuff very easily. Nothing looked like what I needed though, so I moved on.
So I was searching for mesh and sort of searching for fabric for breeches (again. Still). I put stretch knit tan in the search bar and found Califabrics.com. And I found warm tan lightweight stretch rayon jersey knit. It says stretch right in the title! It may also be a better color for breeches than what I have been using. So hopefully it works out. I also ordered some black tulle, which should make perfectly good mesh pockets on the saddlebags.
So here's a rundown of some fabric websites.
Joann.com has lots of stuff, not just fabric, though if you are ordering fabric for shipping you have to order between 2 and 5 yards of it, depending on what it is. I will have black, white, navy and denim fabric for dolls for years. I so wish I was kidding about that.
Spoonflower.com is an amazing website and you can get a very large variety of fabrics (if you don't know what you need you can order a sample set which has every type of fabric they carry and it like $3.50 but worth it to know what your fabric will feel like). You can get anything custom printed on it. There is a huge library of designs, which most can be resized by the artist. You can also upload your own designs. If you just need a small piece you can get an 8'X8" tests swatch for $5, which is enough for most model horse projects. But it is pricey. And if you are looking for designs it might take a long time. The search feature is not particularly user friendly.
Fieldsfabrics.com is a wonderful site. They don't have the variety of stuff that Joann's has, but you can order smaller pieces of fabric. I have ordered as little as 1/8 yard of ultrasuede. When I ordered some cute mask fabrics I got 1/4 of a yard of those and several colors of ultrasuede. Definitely a great website. They also ship very quickly.
Fabric.com looks user friendly, but I have not actually purchased anything from there that I can remember. Doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Califabrics.com was easy to use but I don't know yet if what I ordered is what I need. Not that me ordering the wrong thing (or trying to figure out from internet photos and description if it's what I need) is an issue with the website. I did have to order a full yard and wasn't given the option to get smaller amounts. But 1 yard is not too overly ridiculous. And the prices were excellent. They do not seem to carry a huge variety of things other than fabric, and not all sorts of fabric.
For the most part I like to buy my fabrics in person. I want to be able to feel them and make sure they are what I need. I need to see the stretch, or the thickness, sheerness and everything else that makes up a piece of fabric. While things are closed I am glad I have the option of shopping online. But it sure is frustrating and I wish I didn't have to do it.