Digital fabric printing is growing and fabric buyers have more options and choices than ever. New services are popping up all over the world. In the U.S., for now, Spoonflower is the most popular retail source. They print on a wide range of high quality fabrics, and recently added wallpaper, wall decals and paper gift wrap.
If you’ve been intrigued by the cool fabric and anywhere-from-beautiful-to-quirky custom work by unknown (and slightly known) fabric designers, here are a few tips to help you make the most of Spoonflower as an amazing indie fabric resource.
Finding and buying fabric online is a combination of research, basic fabric knowledge and a little trial and error. There is some great online info for buyers who are new to sewing or new to buying fabric online (I’ve listed my favorites at the end of this post). To get a feel for the fabrics, wallpapers and decals currently available at Spoonflower, you can order a 4” x 4” swatch book for just a buck (shipping is free). Today we’ll focus on navigating the wild (but delightful) worlds of digitally printed fabric.
Always order a test swatch
And make sure to specify that it is on the fabric you intend to use in your project. Different fabrics take dyes very differently. Many Spoonflower artists post helpful photos of fabric samples, but usually these are only on quilting fabric or basic combed cotton. Also, over time, Spoonflower has made (mostly positive) changes to the fabrics they offer. A previous version of their basic quilting fabric was less white, and colors looked warmer.
Cool fabric pattern, but less-than-cool colors?
Drop a line to the designer and ask if they will customize for you. Send them a message via the link on their profile page. Most Spoonflower designers are willing to make adjustments, and even do other custom work.
I recommend ordering an 8” x 8” Spoonflower Color Guide. This is another one-dollar-free-shipping (worldwide!) investment and great deal. It’s printed on Kona® Cotton with 171 color chips. The colors were selected by the Spoonflower team for their breadth and true rendering. Using the Guide, if you request a color change, you and the designer have the same reference.
If you want a bigger color reference and the option to print to any of Spoonflower’s fabrics, you can order their Color Map. This is a full yard of color chips—nearly 1500 colors! The price will vary depending on the fabric you choose. A Color Map on basic combed cotton is $18 (plus shipping).
If you’re trying a couple of different colorways…
Ask the designer to combine them onto a single swatch. This can speed up the ordering process for you, and save money, too. Do try to limit the number of combinations you want to try. Making adjustments and re-uploading them are time consuming for designers, and they earn only 10% commission on a sale (so a $50 fabric order earns them a whopping $5).
If you’re planning to order more than 8 continuous yards of fabric, Spoonflower will prompt you to include your desired piece lengths. This is because they can print no more than 8 continuous yards at a time.
At this time, Spoonflower doesn’t offer bulk discounts unless the design you order is your own.
What if I don’t like it?
Spoonflower’s customer service is nearly legend, and better than that: I have personally experienced it first hand. If you’re not happy with an order you receive, contact them (you can call or write), and their gracious, helpful team will get right on it.
Please be reasonably certain you’re really going to buy
The designers who post their work to Spoonflower put many hours into designing, testing and managing their work. You wouldn’t want to drive 20 miles out of your way because an acquaintance may have the time to meet you for coffee. That’s about how it feels for a designer who set aside other things to help you choose colors. Plans sometimes fall through anyway, so be sure to communicate as soon as you know you can’t order after all.In a future post, I’ll share tips on searching for fabrics on Spoonflower. If you have questions, suggestions or advice about searching for (and also buying) fabric online, please leave a comment or (if 90 days have passed and comments are closed) contact me directly.
And here are the links I promised
Both of these posts explain beautifully what different fabric descriptions mean, and how to match your sewing project with a fabric type.
Buying Fabric Online
(first of two parts—this is great, super detailed info), on Diary of a Sewing Fanatic
How to Shop for Fabric Online
clearly written, excellent advice on whipstitch
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