Your initial visit to a fabric store can be overwhelming! You don't know where to look, what to look for, or how to choose fabrics. Here we walk you through how to navigate a fabric store and offer tips for buying fabric.

We went to a big retailer fabric and crafts store, which sells many other crafts supplies besides fabric. Usually, they display all their fabric on one side of the store.

How It's Organized

Fabrics are generally separated by solids, patterned fabrics, felts and wools, silks and laces, and special collections of fabrics the store sells. We needed solid fabric, so we headed to that section.

As you can see, solid fabric is organized by color and is sold off of bolts. A bolt of fabric is 42" long.

TIP: When you buy a yard of fabric, you're actually getting a piece of fabric that is 36x42".

Check the Blend

Fabric is also organized by blend. A blend is how much percentage of cotton your fabric contains. See our example below. The top black fabric is a poly-cotton blend, so it contains only 35% cotton. The black fabric below is 100% cotton.

As you can see, the higher percentage of cotton your fabric contains, the higher priced it is.


TIP: Make sure to check the labels on the fabric bolts for washing instructions! Write them down, so you know how to wash, dry, and iron them.

You can also see the difference in quality of the two fabrics. The 100% cotton fabric (the one on the bottom), has a tighter weave of threads, is a deeper and richer black, and is more moveable (less stiff) than the poly-cotton blend on top.


TIP: Always take the fabric bolt from the display when looking at colors. A fabric's color looks dramatically different when it's sitting on a shelf next to other colors. To see the true color, examine it under the natural light from a store window.

Special Sizes

Many fabric stores sell specialty cuts of fabric that may be handy if you need a smaller or larger size that it's sold off of bolts.

See the display below that holds Fabric Quarters (also called fat quarters). These are 18x21" pieces of fabric. These are great for smaller projects or for when you need a lot of fabrics. They may also sell Fabric Eighths (or fat eighths), which are 9x21" pieces of fabric.


They may sell home decor fabric, as well, for use in larger projects such as curtains or reupholstery. These are usually sold off of bolts that are 54" long. So a yard of this fabric is 36x54".


Buying the Fabric

Once you have all your fabric picked out, take it to the fabric cutting counter, usually a larger counter at the back of the store. Tell the sales person the yardage you need of each fabric and she or he will cut it the correct size for you.

TIP: Before they cut the fabric, do a quick check for any printing mistakes in the fabric, any rips or holes, or any stains or dirt that may not wash out.