The importance of a swatch

I pretty much do all my fabric shopping online, excepting the occasional good fabric at Joann or Hancock’s.  And I am often guilty of buying without asking for a swatch, even though I’m pretty sure I could save myself trouble that way.  I’m just impatient, you know?  I make allowance for color difference – nothing is ever quite right on my monitor, and that’s ok.  But sometimes?  Things just aren’t as they seem.  Last week I ordered some fabric and swatched from Mood.  Here is the photo of the fabric I bought from their website:

And here is what showed up at my house:

You see what’s going on here?  Someone photographed the wrong side of the fabric!  Luckily, the back side is just as pretty, so I get to make my black and red suit anyway. I’m looking forward to wearing this in the fall!

I also ordered some swatches, and for 50c each they are nice and big.  I’m glad I did, because it helps me to decide.

Purple wool crepe for this vintage vogue suit.  I’m glad I got a swatch, because I feel like the fabric is too thin, and the color a bit too harsh for my plans (it’s lighter and brighter in real life, though on my monitor this photo looks like the colors I actually wanted… I will have to try again.  I love this pattern!)

Wool tweed, for this vintage pattern.  This is actually darker than I thought, and while it is blue technically, it’s so dark that it might as well be black.  I am undecided as yet… I may want to try again for something that has a bit more color to it (I do love black though…)

I also ordered some random swatches, and I’m going to be ordering a few of those.  I want to make a Chanel style jacket (possibly Vogue 7975, though I would love imput if you’ve ever made this sort of jacket.)  One of the swatches is a boucle that I love for that.

So what does this teach me?  Order swatches.  It’s not as though I don’t have fabric for 90 projects lying around anyway (ok, not quite that many…) so I shouldn’t be in such a hurry.  Almost everywhere I shop offers swatches, and unless I think it’s going to sell out, or it’s super cheap, I’m going to try (I’m actually quite happy with my suit fabric, once I figured out that I needed to use the wrong side… luckily that has a happy ending, unlike the time I ended up with 4 yards of Barney the dinosaur purple silk twill (still unused, but I might turn it into a tunic… it’s not so overwhelming that way.))

Do you order swatches?  Am I the only one who is so impatient?

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6 thoughts on “The importance of a swatch

  1. ummm….how do you know which side is the ‘right’ side and which is the ‘back’ in the black and red fabric? I would have just assumed that the second photo in the post was the backside.

    If you were making light of the situation, I apologize. I really am interested in how to tell the right from back in instances such as this when it is a woven fabric and not printed on one side.

    • Well, sometimes you really can’t tell. In this case I know it’s right because this is the side that was used by the designer (Rebecca Taylor.) It’s also called striped in the description, I just assumed that was a typo since it doesn’t look striped in the picture. Sometimes the weave will be different looking on the back, or the colors and sheen will be less. It’s really a judgement call though… I always say that the right side is whichever one you like best.

  2. Diana says:

    It seems like swatches help a lot. I haven’t really ordered fabric online much, but I’ve been really frustrated with the selection at Joanns and Hancocks lately. Have you ever done a post on some of your favorite sites to buy fabric from? I don’t really know where to start.

  3. I order fabric on line all the time (I’m supposed to be on self imposed restriction!). I have only ordered a swatch once because the fabric was expensive and I needed a lot. I’m glad I got the swatch because it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I have been happy with my fabric about 80% of the time.

  4. I don’t muslin. I don’t make a gauge when I knit. And if I were to order fabric online, I probably would not get a swatch. What if I hold back, order a swatch and by the time I’m ready to order MY fabric was out of stock? Na huh, no swatch for me…

  5. I’ve never ordered swatches. But also, I haven’t really bought fabric from actual stores online, just on Etsy. I’m also too impatient! Being in Canada means things take weeks or even a month to arrive here. I couldn’t wait that long for a swatch :)

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