Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fabrics from Nature

Do not overlook the nursery prints at your fabric stores. One hundred percent cotton, these are soft and very sewable for adult clothing. The children love to look at skirts of their mothers and grandmothers, as they sit and read to them. This one is a mock-patchwork piece, which is quite expensive, so I got only a strip of it to add as a border to a dress.

The fabric of roses you see on the left, was very affordable, at less than two dollars a yard, so I got enough for dresses for adults and children.  The nursery print on the right, has all kinds of co-ordinating fabrics, such as the stripes and the calico prints.

If you can see it, there is a strip on the edge of the fabric, there in the middle, which contains dots of color. I call this the color bar, and I use it to match fabrics that I want to coordinate with the main piece. Just clip it and put it in your purse, along with a snip of the main print, and take it when you are shopping for other things, like home decor, or shoes or hair clips, or whatever it is you need to match. That color bar contains all the colors that it took to make that particular print.

This was the morning's inspiration for sewing with nature: a multi-colored morning glory bush that is climbing its way to the roof, covering an old, unsightly pipe,

and a cute little fellow hiding behind the bush. I have been told by dedicated vegetable gardeners that these creatures are not "cute" if you are trying to grow food for your family and they are eating it up. We left an outside row of string beans for them and they never bothered the main garden. I guess they were too full.  He just sat there so still ad let me take his picture.

Here is why I believe Wal-Mart should re-stock their fabric departments or keep the fabric departments:

When Sam Walton created the first Wal-Marts, he did it for the country people so they would not have to drive a long way to get a pair of shoes, a toothbrush and a hammer or a package washcloths.  He wanted to be able to get it all from the same store. He began his first small stores in country areas, and they were a big success, and included fabrics and patterns and notions.  From these profits he built even more stores in more country areas. The country people made his stores successful. 

His profits attracted the larger cities and his stores were soon established in those places, too, but it was built on the loyalty and business of the country folks who shopped those smaller Wal-Marts.

Now it only stands to reason that if someone is going to make a curtain, she will then buy a curtain rod on the way out of the  store. If she is going to make a dress, she may stop by the shoe department and get a pair of matching shoes. If she is going to sew a bathroom ensemble,, she will stop by the bathroom accessories and pick up some matching towels. By the way, the color families in WalMart all seem to cooridinate--from the candles to the lampshades to the rugs. So, a seamstress will want other things in the same store. Or, she may just notice there is a can of peanuts or a jar of olive oil on sale, on her way up to the cash register, and buy that, too. So, Wal Mart stands to profit by keeping its fabric.

Just the other day I was talking to one of the men that cuts the fabric in my area at a Wal Mart. He said that I would not believe how many people came all across the nation from the furtherest coast, to buy fabric. He had spent the morning cutting 10 yard pieces for a woman from Dallas, Texas, and 7 yard pieces for a woman in New Orleans.  I think if WalMart execs pay attention, they will find there is a tremendous surge in fabric sales at their left-coast stores, but it is ridiculous that these people are so deprived of their local fabric stores.  I have friends in tiny country towns in Texas and Oklahoma who say it is not as much pleasure to shop at WalMart since they took away their fabric department.  They now have to drive 30 or 40 miles to a fabric store, and cannot buy tea or flour in the same store, or toothpaste.

So, they shot themselves in the foot when they did this. It was these people who built the WalMart success, and now these people for whom Sam Walton built WalMart stores, are again left trying to find a hammer and a hairbrush and fabric by travellling 30 miles.  His descendents that have taken over the stores, need to understand people. I know it is a business, and it is about money, but if you care about people, your business will be assured.

Wal-Mart, please bring back your fabric department.

I recommend this book:  "Sam Walton, Made in America--My Story" by Sam Walton.
He writes: 

"Competition is good for business.
"Why do I drive a pick-up truck?  How am I supposed to haul my dogs in a Rolls-Royce?
"  Family...must believe in the bedrock values of hard work, honesty, neighborliness and thrift."


Anonymous said...

I live in a little town with Walmart as practically our only fabric shopping choice for 50 miles. The other choice is Ace Hardware store. Both of these places cater to us backwoods girls who sew dresses or quilt. Nice interesting post.

I visited my grandmother the other day, who lives in a very large city. She refuses to shop at Walmart, because the chase other stores out of business. I don't think there is anything wrong with competition in business.

Anonymous said...

You are so blessed to get fabric at that price. That very same fabric is on my eBay watch list. The seller wants $4/yard and shipping is $12.90 (for up to 9 yards). If I buy more than 3 yards at that price, even with the exchange rate difference for shipping to Canada, I save money.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments about Walmart's fabric dept. It's distressing that Joann, while a good store, is going to be my only option very soon. One Walmart in our area is left with a fabric dept., and they've recently started renovation. I don't know if the fabric dept. is going away or not. There's still a fabric dept. at a Walmart in Colorado, where I spent a good part of the summer, but they've really scaled down availability. Hancock is still around, but they closed most of the stores here, so it's kind of far to drive. Frustrating.

I love the material you purchased. Very pretty! I have a hard time finding material with pink roses. They are my favorite!

Diane Shiffer said...

We had a fabric section in our Walmart until recently, but it's no longer there. Now I have to drive 20-40 miles to get to the nearest fabric stores and the fabric is ever so much more expensive there as well. What a disappointment to no longer be able to buy fabric close to home at the store I mostly shop at!

Anonymous said...

The Wal-Mart where I normally get my fabric is up for renovation and will be removing their fabric section at that time. BIG BUMMER!!! The only other fabric store in my city is Hobby Lobby, but even on sale, their fabric is well over double the price of the stuff at Wal-Mart. I suppose that I will try to "stock up" before they remove the fabrics, but then I will just have to purchase fewer items at a higher cost. As much as I love going in to places like Joann's and Hobby Lobby, I always come away with more than I wanted and all of it overpriced and much of it superfluous. I love shopping at Wal-Mart because I ALWAYS go into the fabric section to see what has been lately reduced in price before running around to get my groceries. So, along with everyone that I have talked to, I wish Wal-Mart would bring back their fabric selection.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a close fabric store close by-with the exception of a local quilting store that charges at least $8.00 a yard. Their fabric is very nice but a little too much for a lot of my projects. I end up going to a Walmart about 20 miles that still has a fabric department. You have to be careful at Walmart, because I have bought cheaper material there and garments look cheaper made out of them. I sometimes travel 35 miles to a JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby to get mid-range priced decent fabric.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately as the Walmarts remodel they are discontinuing their fabric departments from what our local store manager told us. ahe said they are using the space to sell more upscale (think Target) type merchandise. Apparently fabric isn't upscale. I do know that of two Wal-Marts in town - the one that is newly remodeled no longer has a fabric section and the craft section is very discouraging - only beading, some yarns and flowers/cake decorating items. Our other Wal-Mart still has a fabric section and patterns but carries no sewing crafts such as embroidery, cross stitch, needlepoint, etc. anymore so I can only assume they will discontinue their fabric section soon too. The notions and threads seem to be already thinning out - so I buy to stock up now while I can. I guess they are too busy trying to attract what my husband calls "the beautiful people" to think of the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

Sam was right about a lot of things. And he must be "rolling in his grave", as its said, at how things have changed in the stores he founded.

Our Wal-Mart does not have a very large fabric department, but I have found some pretty good items there just the same.

Anonymous said...

Originally, his policy was not to sell anything that was detrimental to the family. You could not get the worst rock music on the market, and the magazines were mostly the country ones. His policy was to sell only made in the USA. When he died, this all changed. There is a "family friendly" checkout aisle , requested by customers, where there are no magazines sold at lower levels where children can see the covers. The arrogance of these sellers amazes me. They claim that they are only selling "what people want" but most people dont want it marketed to their children. Requests at others stores not to sell these things or to put modesty covers or warning labels, go ignored. They shove it down the throats of the population as if we are just dumb sheep that dont know anything. Sam Walton said that the stores that went out of business were put out of business by their own customers. He said they voted with their feet. I too would highly recommend the book: Sam Walton, Made in America, My story." Its relatively cheap on amazon, ebay or alibris. It is a great read for homeschoolers who want to learn a bit about the entreprenueral spirit and the secrets of success in retail. He was a family man and a believer in the Lord, and not a profain man.

Anonymous said...

No one "puts someone out of business." If you have a worthwhile product, the world will always find a way to buy it. WalMart cannot have all the craft supplies in the world, or all the fabric in the world. WalMart has stopped selling fabric in some towns, and yet the fabric stores are still moving out or shutting down. They cant blame WalMart. WalMart does not sell fabric, and yet JoAnns is closing in one town. That does not make sense. WHo will they blame?

Anonymous said...

I bought a sewing machine this week so I can learn how to sew, and learned to my dismay that I'll have to drive to a larger city, either some 50 miles to the east (where I never go) or in the state capital, 80 miles from here - but I do go regularly anyway for other reasons.

Also - Sam Walton was the power behind the Buy American First! campaign in the 70s and 80s. Now most of the WalMart merchandise comes from China. We need Mr. Sam now, to be sure.

Anonymous said...

Incase anyone is interested, if you want to buy fabric cheaply, you can order it wholesale from fabric suppliers. I don't know if you need a business number to do it though. However, it can cost about the same to get your own business number as it does to buy a good pair of boots or fabric for a nice dress. Some states it's about $50 and in Canada it's between that and a few hundred depending on the type of business number you want. Anyway, the point is that when I had a small baby blanket making business out of my home, I bought fabric for $2 a meter (which is a little more than 1 yard). And shipping wasn't very expensive because bigger businesses usually have a reduced rates on shipping. They will mail you a book of swatches if you ask them too, usually for free. So that's an option. And if two of three ladies get together, you could order and share. I often used to buy only about 5 meters of one type and they sent it to me easily. Hope that helps anyone who really wants to sew a lot of their own clothing. I used to even get it shipped from another province (from Montreal to rural areas north of Toronto) for a flat rate of $20. It would probably be cheaper in the states. Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

My local Wal-Mart discontinued fabric and (most) notions a couple of years ago. I now must drive 25+ minutes to a Joann's and there must pay more per yard. I was also told W-M was discontinuing fabric "because we're aiming at a different consumer base" - so sad. There are now NO stores in my town that sell fabric, so I must travel. You ladies who do have local suppliers are so fortunate.

Anonymous said...

All the Walmarts in South West Louisiana have closed their fabric departments. They have a much nicer craft section though. There is a Walmart 2 hours away that still sells a little bit of fabric, none of good quality. Hancocks and Hobby Lobby are the only fabric stores around here, but their prices are outrages!!!! I bought the cheapest cotton solid material I could find and it was 5.98 a yard!!!! I needed 4 yards of it. It was almost cheaper to buy a brand new dress at a store. They really messed up by taking their fabric dept. out!!

Anonymous said...

Are JoAnns closed then our Wal-Mart removed their fabric department. We have no-where to buy fabric unless we drive 20-30 miles away to very large cities. If I wanted to shop in a big city I would live there!!!!!!!!!! :(
I don't know what I'm going to do once my stash is gone, I don't want to go into the big city to JoAnns or Wal-Mart there to get my fabric.
Our Wal-Mart and Meijer removed most of there shoes too. We actually live in a good sized town but no shoe stores or fabric stores, life has become very frustrating.
Sure glad :) this is anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a bit of perspective helps when you're facing discouraging situations like fabric departments closing and fabric stores going out of business.

Here in Australia, the cotton prints that some posters say cost too much at $5.98 per yard in America retail for $34.99 and more per yard. That's right - thirty-four dollars and ninety-nine cents. Some cotton quilting prints cost even more. Quilting has become quite a fad in Australia, and because these fabrics are not in abundance here, and because the shop owners can claim that they are "imported" (though these days, pretty much all fabric is imported from somewhere), they jack the price up so they are making incredible profits.

Many towns have no fabric store within hundreds of miles. Small town Australia is very rural, and because there are only about twenty million people in the entire country, it is not considered a big market, and we simply do not get much variety and quality of fabric in the fabric stores we do have.

Gasoline, or "petrol" as Australians call it, usually costs about four times per gallon what it does in America, so that has to be factored into driving long distances only for shopping.

It is possible to acquire fabric, even under these difficult circumstances. Many Australian seamstresses shop online. Very often it is less expensive to order fabric from America than to spend money on gasoline to go shopping at a fabric store that might or might not have anything decent. The shipping price still doesn't make the fabric as expensive as it would be to buy in some of the fabric stores here. There are some excellent online sources for cotton quilting fabric and other fabrics. Yes, you can't touch and see the fabric in person, but when you're faced with a price tag of $34.99 per yard for cotton cloth, that falls by the wayside quickly.

Another good source for inexpensive and unique fabrics are the "op shops", what are often called "thrift stores" in America. Sometimes people donate their fabric stash to places like the Salvation Army stores. Don't forget about the potential of printed sheets for a fabric source. There are often quite good sheets at the op shops, unwanted gifts and the like. There is plenty of fabric on them, and sometimes you can find prints that are far more unusual than you would find on yard goods. I have even picked apart clothing that was absolutely new and unworn, with the hang tags still attached, that I bought for next to nothing at op shops. The fabric, once pressed, is perfectly good for sewing.

I have found Ebay to be a good source for reasonably priced fabric. Don't just look at the auction items, there are many people with Ebay shops with set prices for fabrics as well. They might sell the fabric by the fat quarter, but they cut it in continuous lengths, depending on how many quarters you purchase. Some other Ebay merchants sell fabric by the yard.

There are oodles of online fabric sources, and even paying shipping, Australian seamstresses are doing better to shop that way than to pay the absurd prices for cotton fabrics in the specialty quilting shops. If you're determined to sew for yourself and use some ingenuity, you can find fabric. It might not be as cut and dried a process as walking into a fabric store and buying so many yards of fabric, but it certainly can be done.

Lydia said...

Something I am hoping to do is show how you can create your own printed fabrics by rubber stamping them with fabric ink, on white muslin. You can dye sheets that you buy at thrift stores, and tie them so that they have a swirled print.

If I were in a place without fabric, I would look at everything that was made of cloth, as a potential piece of sewing fabric: curtains, sheets, table cloths, towels.

Lydia said...

To the lady in Australia,

I can envision that kind of resourceful sewing becoming a sought-after artform. Those particular items will be sold on ebay as representative of a culture that didnt have fabric available. It will be one of a kind, and have a charm all its own and a reminder of a people that had a will to do something and overcame any obstacle.

Anonymous said...

I have found lengths of fabric in thrift stores (of course, you have to take what they have -- no selection). I got a lovely length of pink woven material, about 4 yards, for $2. Sometimes you can use sheets, if they are new, or in good condition, from thrift stores or bought separately on clearance from a store.

Anonymous said...

I see a niche business here for some enterprising woman.

Anonymous said...

AS a fellow Australian, i can second the extortionate rate we are forced to pay for fabric. Fabric shops such as Spotlight and Lindcraft have a poor range and their staff don't know what on earth they're doing, in my experience. i can't even purchase loose weave muslin for jam-making here (south Western Sydney) or cheesecloth and need therefore to use dressmaking muslin that is not nearly as good for cullinary purposes.

it is cheaper by far for me to order dresses from the US readymade than it is to purchase cloth out here and enlist the services of a seemstress. The one modest dress business we have here (Christian modest attire) charges twice the price that is asked by my US provider - and that is already taking into acount shipping and a fluctuating exchange rate!!

ladies in the US, count your blessings!!

Another Australian Reader.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone else that Walmart needs to bring back their fabric departments. Most of the Walmarts in my area (I live in K.C. MO)have taken theirs out, and not much of a craft selection either, I have to go to Joann's to get my crossstitch materials.

Anonymous said...

One of my most complimented dresses is a rayon one I made from $1 a yard fabric from Walmart. Thankfully, our closest Walmart still has it's fabric section. I do order fabric over the web from Gehman's, the poly-cotton Tropical Breeze fabric is a favorite of mine and is 55" wide and only $4.25 a yard (and I love that I don't have to iron it either). I have made three different dresses out of their fabric and it is so wearable while I am nursing and dealing with toddlers as well. (And no I don't work with them or know them, I just love their products-they even sell "shadow slips" for modesty purposes.)

Anonymous said...

To the ladies in australia check Ebay there are sellers who would be glad to ship to you at current postal prices and charge realistic prices for fabric.

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear about how to make dresses for nursing. I will be having my baby in December and would love to find more options for nurse wear. I have bought clothes that are for "nursing" but they don't hold out well.

Anonymous said...

I too sew and live in Australia. I shop for fabric at Spotlight because that is the fabric shop in my vicinity. Cotton fabric can be purchased for about eight dollars a metre when on sale. This is when I like to buy it. It is expensive, but still in my mind preferable and cheaper than buying ready made. I have an issue with buying goods that have to be shipped so far, with all the fuel used and pollution released into the atmosphere.

I live in south western Australia.

Mimi said...

Yes, I am very sad that Walmart cut out their fabric departments. They built two fairly new ones near me, and neither one has a fabric department. There is an older one that is further away that still has their department.

The fabric department was one of the few reasons that would draw me to Walmart rather than to Target, which never had them. Now, other than for groceries, I'm more likely to go to Target when I want to shop at a box store.