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To swatch or not to swatch?

2012 September 4
by elizabeth_admin

I’m back home in San Diego (boy is it weird to say this is my home instead of NYC now).  It was a wonderful, activity and food-filled weekend.  I can’t believe how much I saw and did.  Incredible.  My hosts, Tim and Mack, were amazing.  In fact, Tim and Mack accompanied me on my fabric crawl with Shams this weekend.  Even though they don’t sew, they still have a passing interest in textiles.  Tim is, in fact, a talented interior designer, so he knows his way around a fabric store, I’m sure.


image from


After dinner that evening, we were talking about the fabric stores and they asked me how I usually buy fabric, if I swatched first or not.  I guess an interior designer would probably swatch all time, no?  I actually never swatch.  When I lived in NYC, I was so close to the garment district, I could just run up there at lunchtime and buy whatever I was looking for.  Now that I live in San Diego, I could either go to any of the stores here or if I wanted something really special I could make a short trip up to the LA Garment District.  But I would never consider ordering swatches.  Why?  Because I am too impatient.  If I had to search the internet and then wait for a swatch to arrive, I would probably have moved on to another project by the time it arrived and completely lose interest in the first project.  Also, I would probably just buy something on the internet in the hopes it was what I wanted rather than wait to swatch and be sure.  Yes, I am that impatient.  Just ask anyone who has known me for only one minute.  It’s pretty apparent from the get go.

Instances like when I searched and searched for the Kelly green cotton for the skirt I have yet to make are rare for me.  I have to really have a bee in my bonnet to have that kind of patience.  So now I’m wondering if everyone else is like me, too impatient to swatch.  Do you swatch?  If so, when and why?  Does it kill your mojo to wait?  Is it worth it?

21 Responses leave one →
  1. September 4, 2012

    The only time I swatched was when I was going price comparison shopping for wool for this winter coat I’m about to make. I figured with 5 1/2 yards of wool I better be absolutely certain.

  2. September 4, 2012

    Nope don’t swatch either. I want it when I want it and I would hate to buy or get a swatch and then the fabric has sold out!

  3. September 4, 2012

    I’ve only swatched twice and it was when I was working on an occasion dress and a winter coat – both projects where I was spending a lot on fabric and had allowed myself lots of time to plan and buy supplies while working on other things. Ordinarily, I don’t – too impatient!

  4. September 4, 2012

    I only swatch when I order from Spandex World because

    (1) swatch service is free
    (2) with stretch fabrics weight and amount of stretch are important and need to be felt in person
    (3) I am often ordering coordinating fabrics so color is critical
    (4) I am not worried about them running out of a specific fabric in between when I swatch and when I order (or, if they do I am confident that they will restock fairly quickly)
    (5) much of the time it is for costumes for other people, and while I might spend my own money on an online fabric order without swatching, I won’t spend other people’s money unless I know what I am getting for them.

    But, in general, I don’t swatch. Either because I am at a store in person, or because I order fabric when there is a sale online and swatching would mean not getting sale prices, or because I am worried they will run out of fabric if I take the time to swatch it. I think the main reason to not swatch, though, it is mostly because, like you, I am impatient.

  5. September 4, 2012

    I don’t swatch. I either want it or I don’t. Like you, I just can’t wait.

  6. September 4, 2012

    Most of my fabric purchases are on-line. I sometimes swatch if the fabric is exxy and I want to see the quality first or if I want to match colours as often they are not the same as on screen. Especially if I am matching something like blue which can be hard to match. Otherwise I don’t swatch.

  7. September 4, 2012

    I don’t buy much online because I can’t feel it first.

    Michael’s Fabrics sends me swatches of fabrics that I might be interested in, then I decide if I want it after seeing the swatch. Most fabric sources don’t bother doing this.

    All that requesting the swatch and then waiting is not for me. Or for most people, I suspect.

  8. Sara permalink
    September 4, 2012

    Never swatched yet and I don’t plan to. But I can see how it would make sense in certain situations, as outlined by previous commenters. Also I know that Molly (‘s sewing and garage sale adventures) ordered a swatchbook of Vogue Fabrics’ linings. I can see that once you’ve found a lining that you like, it would be good to have a swatchbook of all the colors to order from.

  9. September 4, 2012

    It’s 2 hours door to garment district for me so I do buy a lot online. I don’t swatch from Emmaonesock since so many of her offerings are limited yardage and I trust her descriptions and photographs. I am rarely disappointed. Other places I do swatch, like Mood or if I am looking for something very specific. I used to swatch a lot before internet shopping. I’d call a couple of places, tell them what I was looking for and they’s send me swatches.

  10. Lois permalink
    September 4, 2012

    I occasionally swatch, especially if I’m trying to match a specific color or the fabric characteristics are critical. I remember one particular swatch that didn’t work out. I got a reminder from the seller every week that I should hurry up and order that fabric before they ran out. 😉

    Lois K

  11. September 4, 2012

    I have a Vogue Fabric membership so I get swatches thru their quarterly mailings. Otherwise I do not swatch, like you I am too impatient for the wait. Buying online works well most of the time.

  12. September 4, 2012

    I do swatch after too many disappointments. I just need to see the color before.
    I recently ordered a swatch of a herringbone because I have been on the lookout for a herringbone for 3-4 years and I think this is it.

    I am replacing a coat that I bought years ago and wore to shreds. It was so versatile and I want another one!

    Otherwise, I wait until I can go to the garment district, because I really prefer seeing a much larger piece of fabric to feel it and see the hand.
    I am not entirely comfortable with you calling SanDiego home, either, if it’s any consolation.

  13. September 4, 2012

    I only swatch for a client project (I am an interior designer) I have had two instances where the showroom mislabeled the fabric and I did NOT swatch! The furniture manufacturers must have thought I was a HORRIBLE designer.. there is NO way I can possibly think that those fabrics would have worked together in a room, let alone on a SINGLE piece of furniture! YUCK is putting it mildly!
    For my personal sewing, no way, I buy on impulse. It is interesting to see the moods I have been in by the color palettes and textile styles that have found their way into my stash.. some consistent and some just a whim.. and I love them all!

  14. September 5, 2012

    I don’t swatch for particular projects, although I am subscribed to a swatch service which can be great for inspiration. I much prefer to buy fabric in person than online anyway. Unless I can feel the texture I can’t tell if it’s what I want, so I guess I’d swatch a lot if I didn’t have the opportunity to visit fabric shops.

  15. September 5, 2012

    I swatch for home dec fabrics, but almost never for garment sewing. I’m too impatient, and I’m not usually buying expensive fabrics. Sometimes I end up with something I’m not thrilled with, but it all gets used up eventually!

  16. September 5, 2012

    No I’m a non-swatcher too, I’m way too impatient to wait for swatches to arrive. I probably should get into swatching for certain projects because I am now the proud owner of 4 yards of charcoal wool suiting that I bought for a winter coat project but it ‘wasn’t quite right’….. ooops!

  17. September 5, 2012

    Swatch?? No way… we don’t have that sort of service product here in Oz so impatience rules here. I know they do it from the online shops and I guess if it was a special, special occasion maybe but …no. I am see something I like and add to the collection and fit it to a pattern I have or will find!

  18. September 5, 2012

    So far I’m too chicken to buy fabric sight unseen, so swatching hasn’t been an issue. I would have a hard time being patient for it, though… unless it was a serious, long, slow project.

  19. Lene H permalink
    September 6, 2012

    When I have a particular project in mind, or the fabric has to match, I ususally bring a swatch to the store.

    I never swatch from online stores, ever! I need to DO, not sit around waiting 🙂

  20. Nancy T. permalink
    September 7, 2012

    I recently swatched when I was looking for linen to make church altar linens – it was too difficult to judge the weight and weave of the linen on-line. It made it easy to choose which ones I wanted to order the larger quantity I needed. Otherwise I don’t bother to swatch, I’m more of an impulse buyer for on-line fabric anyway.

  21. September 8, 2012

    no swatch!

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