So much of the on-line fabric I see looks incredible, but I know I don’t have enough knowledge yet to truly the know what I will get based on a description and small square picture. Conversely, when I buy in a store, I don’t learn the fabric’s weight or content (I asked once whether a particular fabric would be considered medium weight and just got a blank look).
Please see update at the end of this post.
This post details my one experience with one on-line fabric store shipped to Canada from a U.S.-based company. Take it for what it is worth.
From my newbie perspective, the two methods of procuring fabric are actually separate areas of learning that don’t inform each other well in the beginning. I need to improve my knowledge to get the results I want in my sewing projects.
Price of On-line Fabric vs. Local
The first consideration, and I guess the most obvious, is the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar (CAD) and U.S. dollar. Current exchange rates (early 2018), put CAD at about 80 US¢. So it costs me more dollars to pay in U.S. currency.
Secondly, the units are different. Living in Canada, I order fabric by the metre. One metre is just over 39 inches whereas a yard is 36 inches. So there are just over 3 inches more in every metre I order. Since a metre is slightly longer than a yard, I get more fabric when ordering and paying by the metre.
Thirdly, I notice that on-line fabric stores price their fabric in different sized units or increments. A price beside a picture may say, $8.00, for example, but that price is for a 1/2 yard (or metre) or even a “fat quarter”. The true cost for comparison is $16.00/yard or metre.
On-line Fabric Properties
I also need to learn the various fabric types, weights, blends, etc. so I can be more precise in determining what I want. I can perhaps then apply that knowledge to selections in real life too. Heavy weight, mid-weight or light weight I thought were rather subjective, but I’ve realized it is both much more precise and complicated with weight scales available using ounces or the metric GSM. I’m going to start to take note of the fabric I buy.
Bright Shiny Objects
Knowing all this, I still got caught up in some deep discounts and low prices and ordered some online fabric from an U.S. based company.
Details of my On-line Fabric Order
Ordered Dec. 29, 2017 (Day 0)
Shipped Jan. 3, 2018 (Day 5) – UPS Standard
Received Jan. 15, 2018 (Day 17)
Total cost of Fabric (after discounts): $67.23 (US)
Total Yardage: 18 (average cost per yard: $3.74 US)
Fabric: 5 different types of knits
Shipping cost: $37.93 (US)
Total Weight: 10.7 lbs
Invoice for order from Seller: $105.16 (U.S.)
-cost after conversion to Canadian Dollars (CAD): $136.18
Broker Fees and Duties and Taxes (C.O.D): $24.09 (CAD)
Total Cost in CAD: $160.27
~CAD $8.90 per yard – more than double the cost seen when selecting.
The package was split, but the fabric was undamaged.
I actually don’t feel ripped off or unduly charged for the order. It wasn’t actually that bad value wise.
The only real issue here is that I didn’t know what exactly the weight descriptions meant and so I got what I ordered, but not what I might have chosen. Two of the fabrics are so thin and light, I can’t sew them. I tried to put a button hole on one, and it just pushed the material into the bobbin and mushed it up – tried it 3 times – really glad I did it with a test scrap, but lost so much time digging out all the thread from around the bobbin mechanisms!
I’m glad I tried it out and may actually do it again. My next experiment will be with Canadian-based companies though I think. I don’t like that I had to be here to receive the order due to the additional COD charges. A lot of unknowns.
UPDATE: (May 10, 2018)
I got a letter from a collections agency today. It looked fake – even being in courier font – but with just enough details to make me curious.
First, the letter was dated April 28 but I received it May 9. This is relevant because there was the following text in the letter:
“Anticipating an amicable settlement, our agency will withhold any action for ten (10) days from the date of this letter.”
Second, a collections agency???
Third: They wanted me to provide my Visa card number to them – by fax!
So I called the collections agency. It was for an unpaid amount of $24.06 from UPS.
It turns out that in January when I paid the additional C.O.D. brokerage fees at the door for this shipment, my card number was copied down wrong by the driver. I vaguely remember now that the driver had written the number quickly by hand and wondered at the time if it was right. In fact he seemed unconcerned complaining about the lack of electronics to do it. I gave it no more thought. So, my bad.
Still, I’m bloody ticked off at being treated like that. For this order, there was shipping cost, brokerage cost at the door and now being threatened and stressed because of their systemic inefficiency.
F**K you UPS.