Buying fabric online is pretty much a necessity these days. Probably the most common question I’m asked at my classes is “Where do you get your fabric?”. A lot of my stash has been built up whenever I’ve been to America (at Palmer/Pletsch courses or on holiday), otherwise I have to buy online.

There are so few fabric shops here in the South East these days. When I was young London’s Oxford Street had three huge department stores – John Lewis, Marshall & Snelgrove and Bourne & Hollingsworth – each with its own extensive dress fabric department. In those days I remember the department in John Lewis was absolutely enormous with pride of place on the ground floor. Fabrics were displayed according to type in one area and by colour in another. There was always a queue at the cutting counters. Okay, admittedly this was probably 40 years ago.

But over the years I’ve seen the department not only shrink in size, but also being moved from pillar to post – third floor, basement etc. I think the last time I was there dress fabrics were on the first floor, hidden amongst the quilting cottons. (Not that I’ve got anything against quilting. I truly think that without the interest in quilting and patchwork, there probably wouldn’t be any fabric shops at all any more.) In the Kingston store, last time I looked, it was in the basement hidden amongst the knitting yarns. What seems daft to me is that they have quite a large selection of sewing machines, but then no fabrics to sew with!

Anyway, the upshot of all this is I increasingly rely on online shops and eBay sellers with excellent feedback for my fabric. My favourite is probably Calico Laine. They have a really good selection, reasonable prices and excellent customer service.

V1381_full_1One of my other favourites used to be the Truro Fabrics website. Not any more. Last weekend I ordered, what appeared to be, some gorgeous linen & cotton blend fabric to make this lovely Ralph Rucci dress from Vogue.  The colour looked great on my monitor and their description of it was ‘bright red’ so I ordered 2.7m of it.

I did all my pattern alterations to the tissue (FBA, sway back, lengthening), which was no mean feat I have to say – there are sooo many pieces! It arrived after just a couple of days and I opened it excitedly.  Imagine my disappointment when the ‘bright red’ turned out to be more like red wine.

Now, it could be argued that I ought to have got a swatch first to test the colour.  But I’ve never had a problem with colours on my iMac and they did say it was ‘bright red’.  And anyway, they charge £1.20 or more for a swatch that’s only 10cm x 5cm (4 x 2 ins in old money) and then only give you half its value towards any future order.

So I complained.  They replied promptly, agreeing with me that the description was ‘misleading’ and stating that they have now changed it.  They don’t give refunds on cut lengths (how many people buy an entire bolt, I wonder?) but as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ they offered me 400 of their swatch points.  Wow – how generous you might think, until you realise that each point is worth a mere 1p.  So, goodwill is worth £4 (on a order totalling over £30) according to Truro Fabrics.

Well, sorry guys.  My goodwill is worth more than that, so I shan’t be doing business with you any more.

Rant over.

If you have a favourite fabric shop – or one you wouldn’t touch again with a barge pole – please let me know.