Getting Started: Fabric & Notions!

posted in: Sewing | 2

Now that I have talked about supplies I wanted to move on to the fun stuff :).  If you have seen the pictures from back when I last had a truly clean sewing room or if you have seen my fabric board on Pinterest you can tell I have a love for fabric!  I will say to get started you do NOT need hundreds of yards of fabric on wall to wall floor to ceiling shelving!    That being said if you are a bargain shopper or live in a rural location (which I am both) where you can’t  just run to the fabric store you will find you want to stock up here & there.


Not all fabric is created equal!  I grew up sewing with the cheapest stuff I could find on sale, we were poor & that was what we could afford.  When I became an adult I about died seeing that quilt shops had fabric for $10 a yard!!!  I rarely ever paid more then $4 in the past so $10 just seemed crazy.  That being said I got some lovely designer fabrics from Micheal Miller & Moda on sale in the $8 range and took the plunge.  I will say though I do still buy some cheaper fabric there is a quality difference!  Nearly all the designer fabrics I have used wash much better, are thicker, iron nicer, hold up longer & don’t fade the same way.  To start out if you don’t have a lot extra money do I think you need designer fabric?  NO, but if you get serious & enjoy sewing I recommend making the switch if you can afford it.

Locally you can check your local craft & hobby stores as well as some Wal-Marts still carry some & I love thrift shops and yard sales! The advantage to the digital age is there are plenty of places online to shop, though you do need to keep in mind the shipping costs when deciding if the price per yard is worth.  In the past I have used, & as well as many smaller sites to find what I was looking for.  The two downsides are you can’t feel the fabric & monitor’s can vary so you don’t always know exactly what you are getting unless you have see the same fabric in person. I would compile a nice list for you but I already found a post form The Humble Nest who did a wonderful job & decided to just share hers with you instead!  30 Great Places to Buy Fabric Online. JUST REMEMBER many of the sites like & offer 5-10% cash back through EBATES.  I got $33 in cash back from my Black Friday order alone this year!

I find the size of cuts depends on WHAT I am planning on sewing.  For most stuff I will get 1 yard but if I think I will be making toddler size or larger clothes out of it I always get 2.  If you have limited space and or budget I suggest keeping a list in your purse of projects & their requirements so you know what to get when you are out.

This can be a hard one, there are 2 main types of fabics… wovens & knits, there are many other variations of both of these including the fiber content (cotton, poly, rayon, lycra, etc.).  Patterns & tutorials a like with both tell you what you need.   There are other specialty fabrics like PUL, but to start out I am going to stick with the basics.  If you are a beginner I do NOT recommed starting out with knits… there are not as easy to sew & will go much better once you know your machine & basic skills better.

Wovens are like flannel… they are fibers woven together, they have no stretch & the raw edges unravel when cut.  Decor weight wovens that are thick, heavy, rather stiff & canvas feeling, these are great for drapes, furniture & bags.  Standard wovens generally come in 42-46″ widths with specialty fabrics like home decor come in 50″-80″+ widths.

Knit’s on the other hand are fabric made by knitting fiber together.  These normally have 2 or 4 way stretch & when you cut the raw edge it will stay pretty much the same even with washing.    With knits you will find major differences in weight, stretch & drape… for example swim/dancewear fabric is thin, light, VERY stretchy & drapes in a way that hugs what ever it touches.  That being said it is also not so fun to sew with! lol.  Fleeces are also knit but they have less stretch, are thicker & have soft fuzzy fibers all over them.  Knits also tend to come in 50″-72″.

I generally do not prep my fabric when I buy it because I’m not always  sure what I am going to do with it.  I store it & wash it before I use it.  If you are going to use it right away many people prefer to wash it, iron it & then store it from the start.  For quilting I do not pre-wash my fabric, but for any other purposed I do.  Why?  Because not all fabrics are created equal & they can shrink different amounts & different directions which can lead to very wonky looking projects after the first wash when they looked perfect to start!


There are many different brands & options out there & it can be confusing.  I personally prefer Gutterman brand my self, as it is a great high quality thread & can be found on sale frequently.  That being said the only ones I don’t recommend is the cheap $1 spool no name threads.  Why?  They are more likely to have splices & thread breaks and often not spun down as nicely & create more fuzz to build up in your machine.

Not only are their different brands but different types too.  Most people think cotton should be best right?  Well unless you are quilting I don’t recommend it.  It is soft & natural but has more fuzz & simply isn’t as strong!  I recommend using a multipurpose poly thread for most sewing needs.

There are again a lot of options out there!  I generally pick up a variety of sizes between 1/4″-1″ elastics to have on hands at all times because different projects use different sizes.  I recommend getting poly knit elastic.  I don’t bother with the no-roll because honestly it still tends to roll, is less stretch & thicker.

One again there are again a lot of options out there!  I generally pick up a variety of sizes between 1/4″-1″ thick velcro to have on hands at all times because different projects use different sizes.  That being said I ONLY buy sew on.  The no sew has adhesive on the back & if you try to sew through it it will gum up your machine & needle and can cause a whole slew of problems!  Buttons & zippers are the same way, I never know what I am going to need so I try to pick them up here & there when they are cheap.

I don’t personally use a lot of these but they do come in handy depending on what you are sewing.  They can be pricy in store, but you can often find a great selection cheap at your local thrift stores.  Bias tape & trims are often used to finish off edges but can also be used for embellishments like the ric rack.  I generally have mostly double fold bias tape on hand because I find I use that more & it saves me some time vs. having to fold the single fold stuff.

Once again there are a ton of options here, and not everyone uses them!  Interfacing comes in sew it & iron on and has a variety of weights & thicknesses, it is like a fiberish roll of paper of sorts..  This is often used in bags, around button holes and stuff like that to give some structure.

Batting is a thin layer of stuff rolled up by the yard!  You will find it in both cotton & poly contents and it is used for everything from coats, blankets, pot holders, the first layer in pillows & more!  It comes in many widths & thicknesses depend on what your project needs including heat safe versions for things like hot pads.

Stuffing, filling, poly fill… you will hear it go by many names!  Depending on what your project is you can go through a LOT of this.  I often look at thrift stores for  bags for cheap.  I also save our old pillows & wash them with bleach on the sanitize cycle… then I pull all the stuffing apart & save it in bags.  The best part is not only is It cheap but good for the environment too!

I am sure I have left out lots of stuff & if any of my experienced readers have something to add feel free to leave a comment!  I think this list of basic information should be a great place those new or newer to sewing to get started!  If you questions about specific items let me know.

2 Responses

  1. Susan
    | Reply

    This is so very useful!! Thank You!!

  2. easytoentertain
    | Reply

    I cant even begin to say how right you are on the pins. Took me forever to finally take your advice and it was SOOOOOOOOO worth buying the LONG ball ones! Makes life much simpler to be able to grab the round ball then try and pry the cheap little tiny ones out. AND much easier to see and not miss while sewing!

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