Sometimes I'm not sure if I'm a quilter or just a fabric hoarder. I love to quilt, but I also love to collect fabric. There's just so much beautiful fabric!
But . . . fabric costs money . . . more and more money as time goes on which means my fabric collecting hobby is rapidly being limited by my wallet. Womp, womp.
Being my mother's daughter, I also love a good bargain. I don't like paying full price on anything if I can help it, so I've necessarily gotten pretty good at finding deals on fabric.
Here are my favorite places and tips to find great deals on fabric and other quilty supplies. I'm going to limit myself to only places that sell designer quilting cotton (so not big box stores) because (1) I've had issues with generic brand fabrics bleeding or fraying excessively and (2) because it's usually pretty easy to find deals at those sorts of places - just check their weekly flyer. This post is about how to find deals on the expensive stuff.
Some housekeeping: at the end of this post you'll find a list of my favorite ships. I am not affiliated with these shops in any way, nor am I being paid to promote them. I'm just sharing them with you because I love them.
Tip 1: Know what a good price is
It's hard to know if you're getting a good deal if you don't know the average full price of the thing you're buying. For quilt shop-quality cotton fabric, full price these days is around $10-12/yard. That means a great sale price is around $5-8/yard. Even if the fabric is "on sale", it's not really a great deal unless it's around $5-8/yard so refrain from buying it until it's the right price. Almost everything goes on sale eventually.
Tip 2: Know what time of year to shop
There are lots of times during the year when shops have sales. However, some are better than others. Of course, any major holiday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Black Friday, etc. will bring a decent sale, I have found that the best sales occur when shops are trying to change over inventory.
Most shops do this twice per year, but the time of year will vary depending on the specific shop so sign up for their email list to get notified of when they're having a semi-annual sale or inventory reduction sale.
The other time that shops are trying to move a lot of inventory is at the end of the year (usually right after the holidays). Less inventory on their shelves means less inventory to count and sort for tax reporting purposes so many shops will hold a large sale right before the new year. Almost their entire stock of fabric is on some sort of discount and you can snag some fantastic deals if you're willing to browse a bit.
Other times when there are decent deals on seasonal fabric are mid-January (for holiday fabric), late summer (for spring florals) and late November for Halloween fabrics. With a little bit of forethought, you can grab plenty of seasonal fabric for next year's projects at a great discount.
Tip 3: Know what you're looking for
If you don't know what kind of fabric you like and what you use the most, it's very easy to just buy everything. That's a great way to end up with a stash that grows at a much faster rate than you sew and is filled with fabrics you don't really like. So before you go shopping, it's best to take a little inventory of what you currently have in your stash and what you use most.
Take a look at your past projects, What colors and kinds of prints do you use the most? Large-scale prints? Blenders? Tone on tone prints? Solids? Whatever you use the most, you will likely always have a need for. Things you use only sparingly may be better to purchase specifically when you have already identified a project for them so they don't accumulate in overwhelming quantities.
In my case, the things I always need and can use are gray blenders - I can never get enough of these - and any tone-on-tone gold, orange, or pink geometric prints which show up in almost all of the quilts I make. I can confidently buy anything in those categories without a project in mind and never have to worry about if it will get used.
I have a bit of a type . . .
Then, when a sale happens, you're ready to shop for specific things you need. Because after all, if you're spending money on things you otherwise wouldn't buy, it's not actually a deal no matter what the price. You'll still end up paying more.
Tip 4: Get used to shopping your stash
Good sales only come around so often so in order to actually save money, you have to purchase in bulk when it's on sale and not at all when it's full price. That means you don't have the luxury of going shopping specifically for each project.
By knowing the kinds of fabric you usually like to sew with, you'll be able to curate a stash that you actually want to use. So instead of going shopping when you start a new project and paying full price for that fabric, you're going to shop from your stash which has all been bought at a discount. If all else fails, supplement your project with smaller quantities of new fabric (for background, backing, and the like).
This also means that when you purchase fabric for your stash, you need to purchase quantities that are actually useful to you. If you're a pre-cut pattern person or scrappy fan, that might mean fat quarters or half yards. If you're a more limited color pallet person, a yard is usually sufficient. My rule of thumb is 1 yard if I like the fabric and 2 yards if I really love it, no more. That way I have a substantial quantity to work with for most of my projects but I don't get bored of it either.
My favorite places for deals
So without further ado, here are my favorite shops to find great deals on modern quilting fabric:
Piece Fabric Co - based in western Canada but they happily ship to the US. Killer end-of-year deals, fantastic service, and the exchange rate ain't bad either. This is my go to for Ruby Star Society fabric and Art Gallery prints.
Gossypium - this is my local quilt shop (LQS) based in Washington state but they ship anywhere. They have the best blenders and their semiannual sidewalk sales are a great value. You'll be able to find pretty much any Moda print or blender here as well as linens and basics.
Threaded lines - based in Texas but ship anywhere. They carry all the modern, designer fabrics (think Guicy Guice, Libs Elliott, Allison Glass, etc.) and you can catch a decent deal on them during the semi-annual sales. But . . . the good stuff goes quick so make sure you catch it at the beginning of the sale.
Brooklyn Fabric Company - based in Iowa but ship super fast and are online only at this point. This shop leans a little more traditional, but it's a great place to find blenders dirt cheap at various points throughout the year. They also carry Tula Pink and some other bigger designers that go on sale occasionally.
Handcock's of Paducah - Ok, so this isn't a small quilt shop, but they have a huge selection and offer bulk discounts. While they don't really have any big calendar sales, the clearance section always offers some phenomenal deals on occasionally some surprising designer fabrics so it's always worth a look. You can usually also snag a 20% off coupon around most holidays and then stack that with a bulk discount when buying 4-5 yards of a solid for background fabric. This is my go-to place for solids.
Backside Fabrics - this online shop sells almost exclusively widebacks. They offer decent sales around most holidays and at the end of the year. It's a great time to stock up on wideback fabric for the back of your quilt which makes my life so much easier as a longarmer.
These are the places I frequent, but likely, your LQS has similar sales and it's just a matter of getting looped into their newsletter so you know when the sale is happening.
Now, it's important to mention that I don't ALWAYS buy my fabric on discount. That's a great way to put your LQS out of business. Occasionally, I'll see a new fabric line coming out that I just have to have and I'll happily purchase some pieces at full price. Or, I'll need to supplement my stash with something specific for a certain project. But, by buying my most frequently used fabric types on sale, I can make sure that I have more money left in my budget for those must-have fabrics and that is a very good thing.