Beginner Guide to Buying Fabric Online

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

How do you buy fabric online without touching it? We have some great tips for ordering different kinds of fabric for all kinds of projects. Take a look at our beginner’s guide to buying fabric online.

Beginners: Fabric Do’s and Don’ts

One of the first and important decisions beginners must make is whether to start with woven fabrics or knit fabrics.

Woven vs. Knit

Here’s the long and short of it: Woven means little stretch while knit means lots of stretch. You may like to wear something stretchy, but you want to start sewing with something stable and easy to manage.

The rule of thumb is to pick something lightweight and woven like cotton.

Avoid knits and stretchy wovens. You’re still learning, so something stretchy and supple will be harder to manage. It’ll slide around and pull. You want something that can hold its shape and help you learn.

After you’ve mastered stable woven fabrics, you can move on to woven fabrics that are a little more slippery.

Polyester and polycotton are both ideal woven fabrics for beginners. They’re stable enough while also being crease-resistant, affordable, and lightweight.

Finally, after you’ve had ample experience with all of the above, you can move on to knit fabrics.

Buying Fabric Online

We’ve compiled a few golden tips to help you buy the right fabric for your needs online.

Tip 1: Choose Your Sewing Pattern

Before you buy anything, and before we discuss your sewing pattern’s importance, here are a few points to consider.

  • Choose an easy sewing project or tutorial.
  • Avoid ruffles.
  • Steer clear from curved hems.
  • Skip the patterns containing lots of details.
  • Pick something simple and as straight as possible.

Your sewing pattern is your most important tool to choose the right fabric. Sewing patterns usually come with a list of suggested fabrics for the project you have in mind to point you in the right shopping direction.

They also include other vital information, like how much fabric you’ll need and what threads, buttons, and other notions are necessary.

Before you buy any fabric, you’ll want to compare its details against your project, so keep the directions handy while browsing.

Tip 2: Get a Width Conversion Chart

Your fabric’s width is an extremely important piece of information. Getting the wrong width can render your sewing project impossible.

You’ll often find that a fabric you like has a different width than the one on your sewing pattern. Use a width conversion chart to find out if you can buy that fabric after all or not.

How big is a yard of fabric anyway? Read this article for all the details to answer that question.

Tip 3: Read the Written Description

The picture of the fabric alone isn’t enough for a correct buying decision. Read the fabric’s written specifications. They include information you can’t tell from the picture, like approximate width, weight, and stretch.

French Terry, for instance, comes in a broad range of stretchiness and weights. Some types have a lot of spandex and are difficult to manage. Others have no spandex at all and are ideal for sewing newbies. Only the written specs will list the spandex percentage and stretch level.

They also include things like washing instructions and shrinkage warnings. They may also give you tips like optimal sewing threads or special offers to go with this particular fabric.

Tip 4: Pay Attention to Scale

The specs tell you the dimensions, composition, and other information. The pretty picture of the fabric shows you the colors and design. In spite of that, neither can show you the true proportions of, say, the polka dots in relation to everything else.

Many stores have fixed that with a simple solution: placing a well-known everyday item of uniform on top of the fabric. Coins, rulers, and measuring tapes are among several props used for this.

A dime next to a polka dot, for instance, gives you a highly accurate, immediate picture of the design’s proportions.

Stack of fabric with text overlay

What Types of Fabric Work Best for Different Sewing Projects?

Here’s a rundown of different fabrics and what they are ideally used for.

Cotton Fabrics

Fabrics that are 100% cotton are an excellent choice for beginners. They’re easy to sew with, affordable, and available in pretty much every color and pattern under the sun.

Cotton fabrics are perfect for basic projects like scrunchies, and produce bags.

Quilting Cotton

As its name suggests, this seriously stiff cotton is better suited to quilts rather than clothing, although you can use it to make fitted garments.

Apparel Cotton

Plain cotton or broadcloth is extremely stable. Make sure to wash it first, even if you buy it preshrunk. Apparel cotton also includes cotton velvet and Chambray or cotton lawn.


Once used to wrap Ancient Egyptian mummies, linen is a sustainable fabric used to make wildly different products, like clothing, tablecloths, and curtains. It’s also used in bedding, rugs, and even rope.

Canvas, Denim, and Other Heavy Fabrics

These fabrics are highly durable and ideal for heavy-duty items like outdoor pillows, totes, and slipcovers for patio furniture.


This is a sturdy fabric that resists fraying when cut. It’s ideal for simple, quick craft projects, like children’s crafts, hats, and lighthearted home decorations.

Fleece and Other Plush Fabrics

Made to mimic the heat-insulating properties of wool at a much lower price, these fabrics are soft and cozy. They’re ideal for stuffed toys and snuggly blankets.


Consider it the thinner fleece. Flannel is great for baby blankets, reusable makeup removers and anything soft and cozy but lightweight.


Jersey is a knit fabric that’s soft and ultra-stretchy. It makes wonderfully supple garments.


Made from plastic and highly flammable; polyester is used in mass-made clothing and shunned by lovers of natural fibers and the environment. It’s usually blended with cotton because 100% polyester is not breathable.


An extremely versatile fabric, rayon is widely used in clothing and is ideal for hot weather.


Soft and glossy, satin is ideal for lavish furnishings, pillowcases, and bedsheets. It’s also used in lingerie, evening wear, scarves, and ties.


This natural fabric is soft, smooth, and lustrous. Silk is a common choice for formal wear, intimate wear, and bedding.


Velvet is a woven fabric that can be made from natural and synthetic fibers. It’s smooth and soft and common in clothing, home decor, and lining.


That is our Beginner’s Guide to Buying Fabric Online. Hope it inspired some creative projects!

Distance and time restrictions, as well as mobility issues, are just two out of many reasons people buy fabric online. Keep your sewing instructions handy, check everything against it, and start with cotton. Happy fabric shopping!

Best Online Fabric Stores

These quilting and fabric stores have fabulous reputations for shipping quality fabrics and meeting high customer service standards. They are perfect for beginning your fabric shopping journey online.

Sharing is caring!