HOWTO: Buy Fabric

by Erin on March 5, 2007


ebay item 8305987417

[Above: Fabric purchased on one day in July, 2006]

Margo left a comment recently asking me how I bought fabric. I thought replying just "Like a drunken sailor on shore leave, if drunken sailors bought fabric" probably wasn't helpful, so I thought I would lay out some rules for buying fabric that have served me well over the last few decades.

1. You never have enough fabric. If you tell yourself "I have enough fabric," you jinx yourself and will immediately need more fabric (except now that you've angered the fabric gods, everything will be horribly polyester and $15/yard). You ALWAYS need more fabric.

2. If offered an opportunity to shop for fabric, take it. You never know when you're going to need more fabric (oh, wait — yes you do know, and the answer is "all the time" — remember rule one: "You always need more fabric"?). So take advantage of every opportunity to shop for fabric.

3. If it is $1/yard and not aggressively hideous, buy three yards. If it's $1/yard and acceptable, buy five yards. If it's $1/yard and, if the fabric were a man [or woman] you would agree to meet him [or her] for coffee (but not a dinner date) buy ten yards. Any liking over that requires a fifteen- to twenty-yard purchase.

4. The basic unit of fabric purchase is four yards of 45" or three of 60" wide. Any less than that and you won't be able to get a fullish skirt out of it. If it has a large repeat (the amount of space it takes to repeat the pattern) or is a border print, or has stripes, or really, anything out of the ordinary, buy five yards. Don't bother carrying yardage for specific patterns with you: if you do buy exactly enough for a particular pattern, you will then cut out one piece wrong and when you go back out to buy more it will be all gone.

5. If you really, really, really love it, buy it right then. Otherwise it will sell out in less than 24 hours. (The corollary to this rule is that fabric you hate will clot the tables and racks at the fabric store until the place goes out of business or burns to the ground.)

6. If the fabric is too expensive to buy at least two yards, or is less than 40" wide, you can still buy it, but only as an objet d'art. You will never make a garment out of it. As long as you accept this up front, you'll be fine. (I have a one-yard piece of Matisse-print "Jazz" silk that I just pick up and look at every once in a while. It was $10/yard when that was astronomically expensive for me.)

6a. If you regularly wear halter tops rule 6 does not apply to you. But you will be making a LOT of halter tops. (Note: conversion from non-halter-top-wearing to halter-top-wearing just to use up your stash is not recommended.)

7. The proper ratio of prints to solids in your fabric purchasing is 10:1. The rationale for this is that good prints are fleeting but solids are always available. In fact, you should never actually have any black fabric in your stash. That is because keeping black fabric in your stash means you won't have a reason to go to the fabric store when you need black fabric, which would contravene rule 2.

8. If you make theatrical costumes, or participate in historical reenactments, or have ever thought "Someday I am going to make the Kinsale Cloak" you may only buy velvet in 20-yard increments.

9. Always make time to buy fabric when traveling. Global Economy, Schmobal Economy. They got different stuff there, wherever "there" is. Pack an extra bag, if you have to.

10. If you think, while looking at fabric, "I'd have no place to wear this, even IF I made it into anything," close your eyes and envision yourself in tears of rage and disappointment, having been invited at the last minute [but with enough time to sew something] to JUST the perfect place to wear something made of that fabric. The most horrible thing in the world is regret: protect yourself from it by buying fabric. And besides, how dumb will you feel when you're freezing to death in the coming nuclear winter/ecological catastrophe, if you don't buy five yards of that wool now?

11. Fabric bought online doesn't "count" against any self-imposed quotas (quotas which violate rules 1 and 2 anyway). Fabric purchased on eBay DOUBLE doesn't count.

Further thoughts: if you have small children, raise them in the belief that the fabric store is the best place in the world to go, ahead of Disney and Chuck E. Cheese. Resort to bribery if necessary. (Also teach them the "one finger rule": they can touch ANYTHING in the store that adults are allowed to touch, if they do so with only one finger. [Check that the finger is clean!] First violation is a warning. Second violation, they must clasp their hands on top of their head for the remainder of the visit.)

Know to the minute how long it takes you to get to each fabric store in your area. This will allow you to plan quick anonymous stops between other errands.

It is better to go to the fabric store without a particular fabric in mind. When the buyer is ready, the true fabric will appear.

So Margo, I hope this helps you, but I'm afraid I cannot be held liable for the size of the stash that will come from following any of these rules. Obey at your own risk.

{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

Schweighopper March 5, 2007 at 6:55 am

Yes! When I travel, I routinely abuse hotel phone books by ripping out the yellow page of Fabric Store listings. I could be sensible and look up stores before I go. What fun would that be? (I do jam the page back in the book before I leave) I have a book for knitters that consistsly solely of yarn stores addresses listed by state. Why couldn’t we have a fabric book of the same ilk?!My shopping fantasy involves a trip through Asia buying unlimited amounts of fabric. Some day…some day.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 7:03 am

Excellent rules!

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Adrienne March 5, 2007 at 7:09 am

Tee hee! Too funny! LOL

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twollin March 5, 2007 at 7:19 am

Erin – I’m with you, though my corrolary to your buying fabric while traveling is that if you have to travel for work (trade shows, sales, meetings, etc.), whatever limit you impose on yourself (like, I won’t spend more than $xx at a time in a fabric store) goes completely out the window as a trip to the fabric store triples as stress-relief, exercise, and entertainment. And, no matter WHERE you are, if it is not a chain fabric store, they will have things that you will never be able to get at home. I had not figured out the 5-yard rule, but will definitely staple it to my forehead from now on. One simple rule – it should make fabric buying so much easier!!

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Isabelle March 5, 2007 at 7:20 am

Great rules. I am tempted to print them out and pin them in our kitchen. Would make a great pendant to the 1957 “Good Wife Guide” my Seb thought fit to put there.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 7:53 am

Out of curiosity, how old is your oldest fabric?

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Erin March 5, 2007 at 7:59 am

Do you mean “how long have I had it” or “how old is it in elapsed time?” I’ve been sewing since I was twelve, but I think the oldest stuff I bought personally dates from college. I’ve also been given fabric from other people’s stashes, including my husband’s grandmother, and some of that fabric is probably older than I am.

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Nora March 5, 2007 at 8:06 am

I love the Ebay rule, especially; I think any older fabric bought on Ebay, or at a yard sale, or thrift store) counts as recycling, and we probably ought to get some kind of tax credit for it. Ditto using old sheets, or even cutting up ugly clothes that don’t fit. (I’m also still convinced that there ought to be a way to recycle cotton fabric scraps on a large scale, into paper or batting or SOMETHING. I hate to throw them away, and some scraps are just too small to save for the quilt I might theoretically make someday.) And as regards bringing little kids, my Mom used to do graphic design (back in the days of Lettraset rub-off letters and non-repro blue pencil) and I loved nothing better than to go to the art supply store with her. Why should fabric stores be any less fun?

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sewinggirlfromtheothersideoftheworld March 5, 2007 at 8:09 am

Ah wonderful. I too beleive the Occasional Totally Frivolous Fabric purchase is good for the soul.

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JuliaR March 5, 2007 at 8:14 am

Regarding rule 6: “I have a one-yard piece of Matisse-print “Jazz” silk that I just pick up and look at every once in a while.”Think about stretching it on canvas stretchers (you can get them at art supply stores) and hanging it like a painting in your sewing space.And for rule 9:”Always make time to buy fabric when traveling. Pack an extra bag, if you have to.”I have yet to do what I am about to propose so it is still a theory for me, but I plan to ship fabric home by FedEx when I find interesting fabric while travelling to exotic places.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 8:14 am

I LOVE YOUR BLOG! i live by these rules :)

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lorraine March 5, 2007 at 8:17 am

Though tongue-in-cheek, this list has a lot of valuable tips! I’m printing it out in 5-point type so it fits credit-card-like in my wallet. It’ll be the perfect justification as I’m standing in line at the cutting table with thoughts of doubt and financial regret.

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Brenda March 5, 2007 at 8:32 am

Rule 11 also applies to Rule 9. Fabric bought while travelling is technically not fabric, but a souvenir.Those are some great little souvenirs you picked up in London!

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 8:37 am

Okay, I just have to say that I love you for posting that. I mean really, who ever has enough fabric and a list of rules like that can only guarantee unending happiness. Thanks for perking up an otherwise dreary and blah morning.Patricia

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kenandbelly March 5, 2007 at 8:43 am

I’m de-lurking to say that this is my favorite post–and you have some great ones! I completely agree about ebay purchases of any sort. And will definitely remember your kids rule for when my newborn gets as excited about going to fabric and craft stores as I do.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 9:00 am

I didn’t know there were rules but I’d been following them anyway. Rule 3A. An ugly fabric at $1 a yard in a natural fiber can be dyed or painted. One must purchase all that is available since results can be unpredictable. Fabric bought for this purpose counts as triple since you’re recycling a mistake, saving major yardage from landfills, and manufacturing beautiful fabric that no one else has. High contrast ugly florals in linen or rayon are perfect candidates for discharge dyeing and bleach is cheap. Erin, thanks for relieving the guilt!!!

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La BellaDonna March 5, 2007 at 9:08 am

Nora, there is a poster over at Fashion-Incubator who does indeed make paper from recycled fabric. If you are so motivated, you can go and search under “paper,” for a while; I can’t go right now, or I’d give you his/her name.Heh. I can get a skirt with a 10-foot hem out of 2-1/2 yards of 45″ fabric. For some reason, that does not keep me from buying fabrics in 10-yard, 20-yard, or “all of it” increments. I buy like a drunken sailor on shore leave, who’s going to be going back on active duty (sometimes against the Armada, sometimes during the War of 1812).I have fabric still uncut that I bought when I was 10 – although I did recently use some lace I bought at that time. I also keep all reasonably-sized scraps (3×3 inches, or smaller if it’s really excellent fabric), which is how I was able to renovate and recycle a 17th century gown into an 18th century gown overnight (mind you, the dress, and its scraps, were 10 years old at the time). And having yards and yards and YARDS* of black fabric doesn’t stop me from buying fabric! It doesn’t even stop me from buying black fabric. (And I really mean yards and yards and YARDS – well into the hundreds of yards, I expect – and yes, that’s just the black fabric.) One of the corollaries (coronaries!) I have encountered is, No matter how much fabric you have, nor what you plan to do with it, you will not have the right fabric/enough fabric for whatever it is you plan to do right now, and you will therefore have to go buy more fabric.And I buy trim the same way I buy fabric, which is horrifying, because although occasionally in life, one encounters linen at $1.00 a yard (yes, I did, and I bought all I could find, too – and now I’m faced with trying to find cheaper fabric to make my toiles for the linen!), one very seldom finds trim for fantastically low prices; ditto really good buttons. Jane Austen paid nearly as much for the buttons as she did for having her pelisse made up – and nothing’s changed since then! (Yes, buttons can be had more cheaply, but very seldom the buttons I want.)It’s worse than having a parrot or a Galapagos tortoise as a pet; I have to think, who’s going to want all those yards and yards after I die? I don’t want them being garage-saled or Ebayed! They need to go where they’ll be loved!That is, unless I get to take them with me.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 9:09 am

“When the buyer is ready, the true fabric will appear.”You made me laugh out loud.

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Jen March 5, 2007 at 9:23 am

This is an *awesome* post. My mother-in-law, who has been teaching me to sew (thank the Lord for IM on the Mac next to the Singer), will probably LOVE it, which means she and I will have even more reason to hit the Cinci fabric shops when Hubby and I visit. And we’re going on a trip ourselves, soon…hmmm….it’s a good thing I bought that final piece of my luggage collection when I caught it on sale, eh? Such a great post, Erin. I wish I knew more seamstresses personally so I could send it to them, too!

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Novumva March 5, 2007 at 9:29 am

>feel when you’re freezing to death >in the coming nuclear >winter/ecological catastrophe, if >you don’t buy five yards of that >wool now?And don’t forget, fabric stored against the outside walls of your house adds a lot of insulation value to them!

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bani March 5, 2007 at 9:32 am

I’m in stitches here, and also in awe at the Truth of the Rules. I wish I could live by them, but economy and space have me leading a heretical lifestyle. *sob* One day I shall rejoin the true cult.

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bonnie-ann black March 5, 2007 at 9:38 am

these rules also apply to art supplies, which can include fabric… especially if you make art dolls or figures. scraps of fabric can be incorporated into collages and paintings and quilts… fabric is lovely stuff. great rules!

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 9:40 am

I am so amazingly jealous of all sewers who live in the USA, stuck here in the UK it is too difficult to get hold of cheap fabric, except of course very basic block colour cotton/poly.Go into a store and at least 95% of stuff is at least 10 a meter, so thats just under $20 a yard! I am buying all my stuff from the wonders of ebay.com, and I am sure whilst it’s a great deal to me I am still being ripped off!

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Susan March 5, 2007 at 10:02 am

9. Always make time to buy fabric when traveling. I bought a ton of silk when I was in Singapore 15 years ago. It’s still sitting in my stash, but at least it’s there, and I won’t have to shell out the $1,000+ to fly to Singapore when I have something I need to sew with that fabric.I’m fortunate – I have 2 fabric stores (almost next door to each other), about 1 mile from home – Vogue Fabrics on Roosevelt, and Fishman Fabrics on Des Plaines at Roosevelt. Woo Hoo. Living in the loop has its advantages sometime!

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lucitebox March 5, 2007 at 10:03 am

This is great! I was giggling from the drunken sailor bit.What a useful (and funny) set of rules. I will definitely be re-fashioning these rules to apply to buying vintage clothing. I think I can extrapolate and make them equally as applicable to my own addiction. Carrying it a bit further, I’d apply similar rules to the purchase of sushi and ice cream. Holly

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Summerset March 5, 2007 at 10:20 am

Yes, my children know exactly what a trip to the fabric store means! They’ve been going since before birth! My daughter who is 8 is now particularly helpful, she can order up fabric at the cutting counter or look for a matching thread, zipper, whatever, while I’m either at the cutting counter or looking for something. My son has always loved the texture of fabrics and soon he’ll be a fabric store expert, too!Yes, my children have been taken to fabric store on vacation. In fact, I even look in the phone book when I check into a hotel to see if there are any interesting fabric stores in the area. I’m pathetic!

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Lauren March 5, 2007 at 10:44 am

Unfortunately I don’t follow your rule #6. I pretty much buy exclusively vintage fabric that’s in the 35-36″ width range, and THEN your other rules all apply. Especially #1 where you CAN’T have enough. You really CAN’T have enough 1930′s thru 50′s novelty prints, it’s just an impossibility. Doesn’t matter if I can actually make (or plan on making) something from it, I need it. No, I REQUIRE it. Sort of like we require calcium and vitamin C. I’d get fabric scurvy.

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Joni March 5, 2007 at 10:48 am

I have vivid and lovely memories of fabric shopping with my mother. My favorite was looking at all the big, poofy (it was the 80s) wedding dresses in the pattern books. (Of course, I ended up being married in a Kwik Sew so perhaps they didn’t have that much effect.)My daughter has gotten used to being dragged along on my expeditions. The stacks of fabric apparently remind her of books because she always ends up reciting the dialogue to the library episode of ‘Charlie and Lola.’ This is failry charming until she screams “IT’S NOT THERE! MY BOOK’S NOT THERE!” at the top of her little lungs. Coupled with my son who amuses himself in the stroller by yanking his shoes and socks off, we must be a fairly odd sight.

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Becky O. March 5, 2007 at 10:52 am

“Know to the minute how long it takes you to get to each fabric store in your area. This will allow you to plan quick anonymous stops between other errands.”Honey, I have to go buy milk, I will be right back….Fabulous list, but I think drunken sailor says it all : )~Becky

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Pamela March 5, 2007 at 10:53 am

“And don’t forget, fabric stored against the outside walls of your house adds a lot of insulation value to them!”Now I know what to tell my husband…very, very funny….all of it, Erin & all the posted comments..Last week I couldn’t get into my fabric…eerr..sewing room because a few rolls of fabric fell against the door and blocked my entering. One of the rolls was a lightweight 10 yard roll of mohair, but the other was an immoveable 25 yard roll of wool tweed, not to mention the 300 yard roll of 60 inch wide interfacing(which I couldn’t resist for $11 on ebay).Why last week alone I recycled from ebay 16.5 yards total of a variety of lovely vintage wools needing a home for mere $4.25 a yard, a price which includes shipping! I am relieved to know that this “DOUBLE doesn’t count”.I am having to relocate my sewing room to a larger room in the house due to my internet shopping habits. Who am I kidding…I brought back 22 metres of boiled wool from France($8 a metre equivalent); the internet is not my only problem! Thank goodness my children are in college and I can repurpose a bedroom!To rule 6 I have this corollary: There is less wastage with narrow fabrics. For example, you will have fewer scraps if you sew a blouse with 36″ fabric than with 45″ fabric. This is because each 36″ width will usually make one panel of a skirt, or a sleeve. You may have to buy slightly more fabric, but you will actually use most of the fabric. This is why I have so many lengths of Liberty Tana lawn(36″ wide), bought back in the early 80s, when the dollar was strong against the pound…well, one of the reasons.To rule 9 I have this corollary: If people you know are about to travel, remind them what a lovely gift fabric makes and how easy it is to transport. In fact, when I am asked what I would like as a gift at any time, I always suggest fabric. I told my husband he would be dead if he came back from China without any silks. He did a very good job, enlisting the bargaining skills of a mother of one of the young Chinese women who graciously took him to the fabric store. Suprisingly, silk was not much cheaper there than from some of our online sources.Thank you Erin, you made my day!

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 10:57 am

The beauty of this post makes me weep. Thank you.

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Becky O. March 5, 2007 at 11:01 am

Oh, forgot to ask… when did you add the favicon? Very nice touch!~Becky

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La BellaDonna March 5, 2007 at 11:08 am

Oh! And I forgot the “before I was born” fabric! I have some cut and uncut pieces dating back at least to the 1880′s that the proprietress of a vintage clothing store I used to go to saved specially for me! (I’d still be going there, except now I have to get organized to take a train there, and I’m often working Saturdays, ugh! But I’ll make arrangements to take Erin there if she comes out to Philly again … and Fabric Shopping, too! Here, kitty, kitty, kitty …)I feel bad for my sisters and brothers in the UK. We need to make arrangements, if possible, for willing travelers to do Designated Shopping – and Fedexing the packages back is smart, smart, smart! That way, there’s a chance that your fabric won’t be going to Oahu while you’re headed for Akron, Ohio!Summerset, you’re not pathetic, you’re a Good Mommy. You are teaching your children to appreciate the finer things in life (because there isn’t much that’s finer than fabric), and, since I expect they’ll both learn to sew, you are helping them become self-sufficient. Plus, your son will undoubtedly be able to mesmerize the ladies with his knowledge of fabric when he grows up, so you’re helping him there, too.Anonymous at 10:00, I have some printed linen from the 1950′s which is virulent in its hideousness, and impressive in its imperviousness to bleach. It is living out its life usefully as Toiles for Heavier Stuff, and I try really hard not to look at it as I work.I dream about finding new fabric shops, sometimes. And I shop for fabrics, and go through different pattern books, and all of it, while I’m there. I suppose it could be considered pathetic by some, but not by me; it makes me happy when I have Successful Fabric Hunting dreams.What makes me sad is that there used to be lots of fabric stores mid-town in Philadelphia, and I could wander amongst them and cheer myself up at lunchtimes. Now, one of the last is closing; we’ll be left with one shop mid-town. Fortunately, there’s a whole Fabric District a bit further out – but I can’t get there at lunch! (Of course, it wasn’t necessarily a Good Thing when I could, as it materially increased my chances of getting back late from lunch.) Of course, none of it’s like the days when a fabric warehouse opened up within walking distance of where I used to live. Although I usually had to calculate that as “within dragging distance” by the time I was done shopping.

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TeeBee March 5, 2007 at 11:14 am

Erin, I have a great big huge girl crush on you. In fact, I might love you.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 11:22 am

Saw this … Mod & Vintage Clothing Patterns for sale … might be something here.Great blog — you have a lovely sense of humour, too. :-)

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Hilatron March 5, 2007 at 11:26 am

Fantastic post. I’m going to print this out and tape it to the boxes and boxes and BOXES of fabric the next time I move, to forestall the usual mockery from my long-suffering moving assistants.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 11:32 am

“And don’t forget, fabric stored against the outside walls of your house adds a lot of insulation value to them!”novumva: I love it! A justification against which no husband can argue!

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 11:51 am

Love the rule about knowing travel times so you can make “quick anonymous stops!” Very important so you can tell the significant other (who doesn’t live by the fabric rules) that you’re REALLY only going to the grocery store, nowhere else…

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Sara March 5, 2007 at 12:51 pm

Love this post, Erin!It reminds me of the time I was browsing a fabric store in the next city, and I fell in love with this beautiful pink embroidered rayon. I didn’t buy it, but then felt a twinge of *whisper*regret*whisper* the next afternoon….So I sent my then-unemployed boyfriend back to the store to purchase 5 yards (and luck of lucks, they still had it!!). Made a gorgeous dress out of it too, and to think….I almost didn’t get it!!All hail impulsive (reckless, what?) fabric buying!

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Celeste March 5, 2007 at 1:26 pm

When I was a teenager, one of my sisters bought me a bumpersticker that read: “Whoever dies with the most fabric wins.”

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Audrey March 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm

The rules are great and I live by them. I was shocked and relieved to find rule 8 on the list. I have 15 yard rolls of navy, red and cream velvet in the attic, ( Insulation value R2) which I justified buying in case I need to make costmes.

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melissapedsrn March 5, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Oh My Goodness, Erin. ROCK ON!You have now justified my obsessive fabric buying for the next five years, AT LEAST. On the off chance my hubby actually wanders into my little sewing room, he will look around rather perplexed but then exit quickly, for after 27 years of marriage he knows better than to ask…”why do you need more?” If he DOES ask, I sweetly say…”It’s my only vice, dear.” Love ya, Erin!

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Susan March 5, 2007 at 2:44 pm

In a time of disappearing small businesses, it is only sound economics to support independent fabrics stores, wherever they may be.It’s not pathetic to check the yellow pages in a new city for shops. Every time I see an ad in Threads for a shop I didn’t visit when I was in the area, there is regret. And a reason to go back.

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lilymarlene March 5, 2007 at 2:45 pm

One of my patchwork books has a piece about hiding your stash from husbands who might say “Tut! Tut!” and wonder where you got the money from. She says to hide it at the back of the Airing Cupboard…..they NEVER look there! Although that is very true there wouldn’t be enough room there for my stash!!! LOL!!!

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 2:56 pm

You made me laugh lots! My local fabric store had printouts of these ten rules for all the customers who try really hard not to feel guilty about fabric purchases. i have now made up a poster which is hanging on my sewing room wall. i think I’ll have to add yours too ErinTen Good Reasons To Buy Fabric1. It insulates the cupboard where it is kept.2. It keeps the economy moving. It is my duty to support cotton farmers, textile mills and fabric shops.3. It is less expensive and more fun than psychiatric care.4. I’m participating in a contest – the one who dies with the most fabric wins.5. It keeps without refrigeration. You don’t have to cook it to enjoy it. You’ll never have to feed it, change it, wipe it’s nose, or walk it.6. Because I’m worth it.7. Like dust, it’s good for protecting previously empty spaces in the house – like the ironing board, the laundry basket and the dining room table.8. It’s not immoral, illegal or fattening. It calms the nerves, gratifies the soul and makes me feel good.9. Because it is on sale.10. Buy it now, before your husband retires and goes with you on all your shopping expeditions.

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roach March 5, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Thank you for this post. It comes at the perfect time since I’m going to Bangalore next month for my first overseas trip ever. I’m sending my husband a link to your rules just so he understands what the extra suitcase is for.

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FireDragon March 5, 2007 at 3:12 pm

I still regret not buy the black sheer with roses on it from 20 years ago. Anyway…..

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 3:22 pm

I was on holiday in England last month and went to the best cheap fabric market…I got the most gorgeous teal floral print jersey (think: wrap dress) for 1 a metre! That is a quarter of what they would charge at the regular stores.And they gave me extra for free because I was Canadian!

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Cat March 5, 2007 at 3:49 pm

la belladonna said:”One of the corollaries (coronaries!) I have encountered is, No matter how much fabric you have, nor what you plan to do with it, you will not have the right fabric/enough fabric for whatever it is you plan to do right now, and you will therefore have to go buy more fabric.”How very true.My stash is growing, but I wish stores in Australia realised that natural fibres really are best. I am travelling to the UK this year and I can hear Liberty calling.Over 10 years ago I made a full length velvet cloak with hood(just because I wanted one). I think total fabric cost velvet and lining came out at about AUS$300. I still love it and even though it has been worn about 5 times during that time I would never part with it.Loved the entry Erin,Excellent as usual.

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Anonymous March 5, 2007 at 4:42 pm

I am going to London to ‘visit the queen’ and my first stop on the way will be Old Brompton Road….I just have to see that shop.

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Cindy March 5, 2007 at 4:54 pm

Joni, Miss B screaming about books is probably no more odd than Robbie hiding underneath the fabric rounds and playing with his Micromachines…..screaching sounds included.Erin, I think I need to make my dh read this….then he will see the *ahem* logic to my stashing.

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Jen March 5, 2007 at 4:59 pm

I couldn’t agree more!!

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ali4579@gmail.com March 5, 2007 at 5:04 pm

My friend’s mum has a saying:”He who dies with the most fabric, wins”:D

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Catherine March 5, 2007 at 5:57 pm

ah, so good, so true! I have to print the rules out for my husband – he just couldn’t understand when we moved from New Zealand to Australia and I had to bring all my fabric with me – some of which was over 10 years old then. I am fortunate in having a good friend who is also a fabric addict, so occasionally I have a ‘purge’ and ‘give’ her all the fabrics that I will ‘never’ use. Essentially she stores them for a while until my husband forgets, and then I get them all back again! I also have a similar approach with patterns. I could look at pattern envelopes and play with my fabrics quite happily – much of the joy in sewing is in the fantasising about what *could* be made!

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mamafrog March 5, 2007 at 6:14 pm

OMG!!! I did not know that these were the rules I’ve actually believed in all my life!! Thanks for writing them down for me so I can post them over my sewing machine and explain this to my family–who think I’m crazy–by the way. Did you know this kind of thing skips a generation? I have hopes for my granddaughter since my daughters hate to sew!

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lsaspacey March 5, 2007 at 6:16 pm

YOU ARE BRILLIANT! I must print these out in a pretty font and frame them for the back of the front door so that I see them every time I leave the house. Thanks!

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Charles March 5, 2007 at 7:22 pm

Hmm, so I guess trying to figure a way for the company to send me on temporary deployment to one of the India offices, just so I can find an excuse to wander one of the fabric markets, isn’t strange after all.

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Moonwishes March 5, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Love the rules and I have been applying them. Lately every time I find a great fabric at $1/yard I just buy whatever is left on the bolt. I’m trying to buy my fabrics in colors that I want to do a SWAP sew with so I’m just preplanning, right?I’m a quilter also so I can’t leave cotton fabrics alone either. Fortunately hubby actually encourages me most of the time and HELPS me shop for fabric.

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Anonymous March 6, 2007 at 5:39 am

My 14 yodd read your rules with me and said “Well, mom, at least now you know you were doing everything right.” Wonderful to be validated by your teenager…. :D

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Balwearie March 6, 2007 at 5:52 am

I am puzzled about this thing called “quota”. Does that apply to what will fit in the house or are you also counting the trunk of the car?Great set of rules!

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colleen March 6, 2007 at 6:15 am

I use these rules, exactly. I should increase my yardage minimum, though. From now on I buy at least three yards at a time. Except when I shop for work, then the fabrics are mainly artificial fur that must be bought mailorder, with prior deposit from the client.Do you have rules for cleaning out the sewing room? How small a scrap is too small to keep?

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Marji March 6, 2007 at 6:48 am

re the travel souvenirs, I’ve purchased those extra travel bags that you buy in airport concourse shops to haul home fabric, and I’ve availed myself of the shipping services of various hotels. There is a post office right around the corner from Winmil Fabrics in Boston, and at Britex in SanFran they’ll even ship it for you, and then you don’t have to pay the sales tax!Great rules.

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Theresa March 6, 2007 at 7:18 am

No fabric is safe from me. I turned old “Monkeys Driving Jeeps” sheets into a skirt and curtains(two kitchen redoes ago ) into a skirt. I turned out grown anime screenprinted son’s shirts into throw pillow covers. I’m a fabric junkie. I am afraid my children are planning an intervention. Very Good — very funny post.

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yvette March 6, 2007 at 8:52 am

I already live by your rules Erin and am just glad to find out I am not the only one. My son recently started buying fabrc as he is studying tailoring, now we are fighting for storage space, I really need one of my kids to leave home to have room for all the fabric etc.

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Anonymous March 6, 2007 at 8:56 am

Yes. Yes yes. Yes on everything except making the Kinsale Cloak. I made it years ago and wore it once. I hated it. I looked like Little Miss Muffet. Horrible. Make the Moroccan Burnoose instead. You’ll be much happier.–Lydia

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stacy March 6, 2007 at 8:57 am

You are my hero. I think I’m in love… ;-)

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Linda March 6, 2007 at 11:07 am

These are the best rules I have read in a long time. I am going to link to this article in my blog.I have some friends who need to get off the fabric moratorium I and they have been on for several weeks now.

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Margo March 6, 2007 at 11:38 am

WOW.I will need to read this entry and all the comments over and over just to glean all the wisdom! What treasure!Now I know why I feel swoony in fabric stores: I’ve been trying to shop for one project and one pattern at a time! I need to release the wanton inside and buy everything gorgeous. Hmmmm. I just remembered several yards of gorgeous heavy white silk with slubs in it. I bought it for a wedding dress and then ended up wearing my mother’s (hand sewn)dress. But that was $90 worth of silk, a fortune for a penniless college student. And even though I have never had a serious idea of what to do with it since the wedding dress plan, it has moved with me everywhere since then and I know exactly which storage box it’s in right now. So perhaps Fabric Addiction is in my blood already.Thanks, Erin, for a superb treatise!

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Manon March 6, 2007 at 11:57 am

I think I’m going to print this out, frame it, and give it to my mother for Christmas.

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MissMonkeysMommy March 6, 2007 at 2:38 pm

LOL, I love the rules!

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city girl March 6, 2007 at 3:02 pm

awesome post! definitely rules to live by!

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scormeny March 6, 2007 at 4:05 pm

I laughed out loud through the whole thing, and am now TOTALLY inspired for my upcoming trip to (hooray!) Japan.Thanks for a great post.

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carolyndh March 6, 2007 at 7:29 pm

How true it is that if you tell yourself you have a limit and won’t be buying more–the impulse to want more will only be strengthened. If you know that you can buy more whenever you want to or need it…money will be spent for what you really want. Doesn’t the same thing apply to dieting or other areas of consumption?!

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Saint Pud March 6, 2007 at 8:02 pm

I have decided that, from now on, I will base my life on your teachings. I’m traveling tomorrow and will get to implement #9 right away! You know what else all that extra fabric is good for? It’s good for packing items when you move. And when you UNpack, you get to relive all those fabric purchases!

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MinaW March 7, 2007 at 12:27 am

A use for 1 yard of fabric: take your favorite color of fleece vest, maybe one which is beginning to look a little old. Choose a fabric which goes with all the clothes you like to wear with that vest. Line the vest so it can be worn inside out. (I like batik fabrics for this, but then I like them for everything. But the tight weave adds a wind resistant layer.) Don’t forget pockets. A bit of leftover flannel is good for pockets between the layers. Well, yes, if you insist upon doing it right, you could change the zipper. I just figure if it’s difficult and I’m desperate to zip it up, I can reverse it.MinaW

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Kate March 7, 2007 at 5:44 am

69 comments and counting!!! Yikes! Let me just say that I agree with all of the above EXCEPT that you can make wonderful hats out of 1 yard pieces. If you do fabric collage you can use even scraps. I tell my students once you start millinery you can’t throw anything away.I gave away/sold/donated an entire studio full of fabrics when I moved here to Switzerland thinking ‘I’m moving to Switzerland where Swiss cottons are famous and there is a textile museum in my town’ ONLY to find out that there are only 2 tiny fabric stores in town and denim or cotton is 20 Swiss francs per meter – Alas! We do have wonderful lace outlets tho’ so I am hoarding again.K Q:-)

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Moonwishes March 7, 2007 at 6:30 am

With the rules in mind yesterday on our ‘date’ hubby and I entered a fabric store. I wanted fabric for some clothes (following the rules of course) he wanted fabric for curtains for our new house (he also followed the rules). Almost $500 later we left the store–but were very happy to have found the exact fabric we both liked for the window treatments (you can’t call them curtains when you spend that much on the fabric) and I should have a couple of skirts and a top. I know it was more expensive to buy ‘extra’ than the just enough on the window fabric, but what if I ran out in the middle of a glorious valance–horrors!

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trenabdesigns March 7, 2007 at 7:43 am

Mmmmm, stash. I put myself on a moratorium until March 1, with fabric only to complete current projects until May 1. I actually made the March 1, but then *had* to buy some yello silk satin brocade online. It is for a skirt that will match a blouse I plan to make, so maybe technically it is tangentially related to a current project? At any rate, I was relieved to hear that internet purchases don’t count!

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La BellaDonna March 7, 2007 at 7:53 am

A time and a season for everything, Lydia. There is room in the world for both the Moroccan Burnoose and the Kinsale Cloak. There are those of us who don’t particularly mind looking like Little Miss Muffet, and times when an 18th Century-style cloak is more appropriate than an 1860′s style cloak. If you still have your cloak, time to Ebay it! Let it go free (except for the “free” part), and use the money to buy … more fabric!

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Francis March 7, 2007 at 9:12 am

Of course, if the fabric is wonderful but too expensive to buy more than a yard, the obvious thing to do is to make me a tie out of it. (^_^)I should probably start making my own, actually. I do know how to sew, I’m just lazy and/or distractable.

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mojogeno March 7, 2007 at 9:59 am

What a wonderful post Erin and reading ALL the responses here just as fun! One of my first real jobs was in a fabric store in the mid to late 70′s and I still have a trunk of hoarded fabric from that time!!

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La BellaDonna March 7, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Francis, if you love fabric, and can sew but are willing to acknowledge that … you’d rather not, why don’t you make arrangements with a seamster/seamstress to swap work with them for stuff you don’t mind doing, but they do? Moving heavy furniture, putting together do-it-yourself shelving, taking the cats to the vet’s, babysitting small children? (As opposed to, say, some of the people in my past, who expected me to sew for them just because they wanted something, without any kind of equitable exchange being offered.)Mojogeno, I. Am. So. Jealous. If I had had your job, I would have thousands of yards of fabric by now, instead of … thousands of yards of fabric.Kate Ohhhhhhh, nooooo! Please tell me that the Swiss franc is worth about $.05, U.S. No, I didn’t think so. I hurt for you. I foresee much buying on line for you. Or mayhap you can do swaps with some of the folks here: lace for stash? Or even folks who are entertaining the idea of selling parts of their stash? Maybe they could let you know, and find out if you wanted to buy?trenab, WHERE? Where did you get your yellow silk brocade???

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Anonymous March 7, 2007 at 9:06 pm

I just spent part of the morning at SAS Fabrics in Phoenix. Where fabric is sold by the pound as well as the yard. It’s a remnants warehouse where old inventory goes to die. Unfortunately, the only two pieces I really loved were both under two yards. If you go, remember that it is cash or in-state check only.Andrea

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Anonymous March 8, 2007 at 1:58 am

Thank you so very much for the excellent set of rules! I just came back from the Sewing Expo in Pullyap, WA with an extra suitcase filled with fabric, notions, gadgets, and LOVE! Note, this is in addition to the empty suitcases I allotted myself. So glad to know I was just following the “rules!”

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trenabdesigns March 8, 2007 at 7:17 am

Labelladonna–the brocade is from Fabric Mart (http://www.fabricmartfabrics.com/controller/search.php?string=yellow&page=2). All that’s left is a 2 yd piece so if you want it you’ll have to hurry! It is listed as $14.99/yd, but when I put it in the cart it came up at $9.99/yd. That was surely a sign that I *had* to get some.

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lorinda March 8, 2007 at 11:00 am

Brilliant.

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Anonymous March 8, 2007 at 7:50 pm

If it is on sale, buy it. The greater the rebate, the more you may buy.To affirm this principle: On certain occasions, certain truly hideously expensive fashion fabrics may be offered for sale, because they are “no longer fashionable”, or “in season”, or whatever.Two truly enchanting examples:A faux leather embossed with an absolutely lovely floral pattern, which I made into a marvellous skirt. And there are scraps remaining which I may yet make into a handbag.A chamoix-like material embossed with a pailsly-like pattern, which I made into a truly charming suit (jacket + pencil skirt)I would not even have _thought_ of buying these if they had not been _at least_ 50 % off.They were still fairly expensive, but not obscenely so, so I managed to quiet my conscience.

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Floridaprincess March 10, 2007 at 4:29 am

Great post today Erin love all your rules. You make me laugh so hard. You should have been with me tho Jan, 2006 when I had to smuggle 70 yards of Pendleton Wool on the airplane. Once in my life they did not weight my luggage dh & I were so happy we were over the limit and we bought 2 large empty suitcases with us from Florida. I had the hardest time getting all the fabric in suitcases. I did not relise I bought that much. Then all the Chrismas pressies.The Pendleton wool and us made it all the way back to Florida from Portland, Ore in one piece and no extra charges. Dh and I were so happy.

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Anonymous December 8, 2007 at 2:52 am

Hello – I have read your rules with interest and they all certainly do apply. Yesterday I went to a wholesale fabric store I have just discovered, in the next suburb ( very close by) and the right fabric did in fact, make itself known to me, so much so I went back there today and bought some more.REegards,Tigersspace

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Anonymous May 24, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Yeah, okay but what if you didn’t know better and bought 3 yards of lovely raw silk while in China and then realized it is 36″ wide…..is there a conversion of 45″ to 36″ so I might know what I can make out of this fabulous 36″ material…since the patterns don’t usually show a yardage requirement for 36″?

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Erin May 26, 2008 at 9:02 am

Here’s a nice fabric conversion chart:http://patternsthatfityou.com/fabricconversionchart.htm

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Anwen September 26, 2008 at 7:11 am

Have just re-found this post, at a rather good time, having somehow accidentally bought obscene amounts of fabric in Goldhawk Road yesterday… As in, it’s just as well I had my mum’s shopping-bag-on-wheels with me. I rarely buy more than two metres of most things unless I know I’ll be making a dress from them – I am really into 40s styles, so even though I am a size 20/22 I can generally squeeze a slim-skirted dress out of 2m of main fabric with a contrast yoke or something – hurrah for the whole make-do-and-mend thing ;) I am just too much of a sucker for variety. I can make a pencil skirt with 1m of a nice wide suiting, too, or a nice shall/cap-sleeved blouse from 1m of silk satin or similar.

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mnstmag October 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Oh, those of you with access to $1/yd fabrics are sooo lucky. I moved to Tasmania (Australia) 3 yrs ago, and even cheesey muslin costs several dollars a meter (yd). But am off to SE Asia to holiday and buy more beautiful fabric. I have, however, finally cut into some of my stash, so now there’s a bit of room for more!Marian from Hobart

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thekatsmeow March 11, 2009 at 4:36 am

I absolutely love this! It’s so cute and you have such a way with words. Thanks!

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LiEr May 1, 2009 at 12:29 am

Funny! And true. I linked you on my blog. These are important rules others should know. Thank you for making me laugh!

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MaryAnne May 1, 2009 at 10:28 am

Fantastic post – I got here via LiEr’s link and I’m glad she posted, I got a good laugh. My husband is always complaining about my fabric-buying ways…

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Karin @ madebyk May 1, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Jumped over here from Lier’s post too. So so funny! Love this set of “rules”!!!

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Jeannie May 2, 2009 at 9:18 am

I, too, arrived via Lier’s link. I pretty much live by these rules–and apply them to yarn and paper as well. (I have a serious problem!)And when you are out of town, why not just photograph the yellow pages fabric (and yarn and scrapbooking and art supplies) section(s) with your cell phone? Works for maps, too.

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Sew, Scrap, Make May 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I seem to be makng those anonymous stops more and more. I just add 20 minutes to the time it should take e to get home, and stop in.

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Jen May 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Just here to refresh, what with spring coming and all. ;) What a great post…And really, just plain good advice (esp. regarding one-way fabrics, because I never, ever know how much to buy of them for anything at all and kind of freak out a little).Also, a story of blessed shopping: Two weeks ago I saw, nearly bought, but left behind a fabric that was greatly liked, but there were only about 4 yards, and yes, it’s one-way. But it never really slipped my mind…While in the store trying to find curtain trim today, I took a look.It was STILL THERE! Every inch, Erin! And on sale to boot! Miracle, I tell you. Miracle!

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Sunspot January 19, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Still laughing and feeling Im not alone after reading this in Jan 2010!Unfortunately at my house this rule is also included:Never throw away scraps no matter how small. I am making a braided rag rug from the pieces I tear off to even out the fabric before I cut the pattern. AND I still have pieces of fabric from my 8th grade home economics class. (circa 1968)

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coach sale July 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm

When someone pays me an unexpected compliment, I ofetn tell them that they made my day!

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M-R @ Quilt Matters November 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Awesome post! A friend forwarded me a link to your post and I’m so glad I found it. So true! :)

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Alice December 2, 2012 at 5:10 am

oh, i found it very good rules, i’m in Guangzhou China. If you want to buy fabric, you can contact me. I can show you the biggest fabric market in he world.0086-13570292264

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