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How to Shop for Fabric on Etsy

by Grace Bonney

Last week I shared some unedited and un-styled updates from the upstairs and downstairs of our new home upstate. I can’t begin to describe how much it meant to me to hear your feedback, comments and questions, and also to see the conversations that came from that post, both here on the site and on social media. I have a big list of questions and requests that came from those posts and today I wanted to start with one that was asked a lot: How did I find the fabrics I used for our DIY headboards on Etsy and what’s the best way to search and select fabrics from the sea of sellers there? So today I’m going to walk you through my tips and tricks for shopping (and saving on) fabrics on Etsy. I’m also going to share my favorite shops to pick up small and large pieces of fabric, for upholstery and other around-the-house craft projects. Fabric is pretty much all I seem to buy on Etsy these days, so I hope this will come in handy! xo, grace

*If I missed any type of fabric or area of the search/find that you need help with, just let me know and I’ll add it in the post or the comment section right away!

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Step 1: The first thing to do when you're looking for fabric on Etsy is to KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. I find it's too overwhelming to look through their textile section without any factors that will help you edit. So try to know the following if you can. What type of fabric do you need? (Upholstery weight? Lightweight? Linen? Cotton?) What is that fabric called? (Kilim, Ikat, etc.) How much do you need (in yards)? What scale of pattern do you want? Once you know these answers you can start searching.
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Step 2: Once you know what you want, enter the search terms into the GENERAL SEARCH BOX on Etsy. Do NOT narrow by category yet. I've found too many sellers mis-categorize their work and you can miss out on something great. Try not to add more than four search terms, ie: "Black striped linen fabric" or "Yellow velvet fabric." If you get too detailed ("Peach large polka dot pattern upholstery fabric"), chances are you'll miss anything close to it because most sellers don't label things as well as they should - or they use different terminology than you will, especially when it comes to colors.
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Step 3: I find I have to look through at least 10-15 pages of search results on Etsy to get what I want, so step 3 is to do the legwork and look through all the search results. Sometimes the best things are at the end of the group, so don't give up if you see 20 pages of results. Chances are, you'll come across a few great shops in that search result that have similar items or can be bookmarked for later.
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Step 4: Once you have your desired fabric or shop, don't be afraid to email them about a price discount if you're buying a large amount of yardage or if you're buying multiple things from their shop. Most vintage fabric sellers especially are open to discounts for multiple or large purchases - or sometimes a reduction in shipping costs. This isn't always the case, but many of my friends have done this with great success when they're buying large quantities.
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Step 5: MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE. Be sure that what you're ordering is what you actually want/need. Be sure to check the dimensions (make sure the units of measurement match, often sellers will list in yards or centimeters), the scale of the pattern (ask for a picture of the pattern next to something recognizable, like a penny or dime), the weight (is it upholstery weight or something thinner?) and last but not least, ensure that what you're getting is the ACTUAL PICTURE SHOWN (often it is a representation of what their stock typically looks like, not what you're getting). Just email the seller to confirm all of these factors before buying.
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Step 6: Stay in the loop! If you see a shop that has something similar to what you want, or they're sold out of what you DO want, email them to be added to their mailing (or personal) email list when they get in new stock. A lot of sellers will alert you before adding something, or are open to keeping their eye out for something similar if you're hunting for vintage styles.
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Ways to Find HIDDEN GEMS: So often people will list things with the wrong terms or words that are spelled incorrectly. I've found that sellers know every buzzword, so they'll list something as "Indigo, Shibori and Boro" and other buzzwords of the design world just to reel you in during search results (even if it's only one or none of those words). So if you're looking for Ikat, don't be afraid to throw in "Kilim" or something similar if you want to scan those results and make sure something wasn't mis-categorized. Also check for misspellings. For example, "Kilim" is often misspelled as "Killim" with two Ls. So double check common misspellings to see if you missed anything good.
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SECRET SEARCH TIP: One of my favorite ways to "deep dive" search is to look through my favorite shops' "Favorites" lists. Each seller on Etsy has a "favorites" list where you can look at the products and shops THEY think are great. I look for or check out shops that I already know are great and look through THEIR lists to see if there are new sellers, styles or artists I should know.
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MY FAVORITE SHOPS: Now for the easy part, these are the shops where I've bought the fabrics and pillows I've been using in my home for the past few months (the ones you've seen in our house photos on the site and on Instagram). JapanMuse (for Japanese fabrics), PillowStore (for Kilim pillows), SwahiliModern (for mud cloth), EthosEthnicArt (for mud cloth), OneFineNest (for mud cloth and indigo pillows), BohoPillow (for indigo and Hmong pillows), TurkishKilimRug (for rugs and Kilim pillows) and SeClara (for Kilim/Turkish pillows).

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Comments

  • Thanks for sharing these tips! I hadn’t thought of looking for fabric on Etsy, but I love the patterns you’ve been choosing for your home and the idea of customizing in that way. Especially with vintage fabric – so unique.

  • Thanks Grace, for the tips and links. I already book marked something from JapanMuse.
    Just wanted to add that some sellers sell their fabric in 1/2 yard increments so just note this before selecting the amount of fabric ordered.

  • What a great round-up of sources! Thanks. I’ve been looking for interesting upholstery fabric on etsy but am striking out thus far. My ideal is something very abstract and painterly, maybe like bluebellgray. Any thoughts?

  • This was so interesting to read a buyers point of view as we often only read about how to sell your wares (I sell antique and vintage French textiles & trims).

    From my experience, the Etsy shipping calculator is a very inflexible tool (it doesn’t take into account weight/size etc) and potential clients can be put off by high shipping pricing simply because they have bought multiple items. I would recommend always reaching out to the seller and asking them about group shipping and total costs before purchasing as it may be more reasonable than what etsy is calculating (fingers crossed!!).

    Despite having textiles coming out my ears I am still a complete sucker for buying more through Etsy, I find it a much more friendly environment (and reliable) than Ebay for example.
    One wonderful seller who has some of the most beautiful new textiles is Miss Matatabi. I bought Nani Iro fabric from her for my kids playroom and she was wonderful to deal with.
    xxx
    @familleribeaucourt

  • Excellent article and advice. Fabrics (hand made) are my weakness. Thoroughly enjoying your use of them in your new/old home. So happy for you and Julia-together you have accomplished so much in a short time. Patiently looking forward to your next update.
    Hugs and smiles, Reva

  • Hi Flora,
    Search out C’EST LA VIV on etsy. She is now listing some of her watercolor prints by the yard there.

  • Thank you so much for this informative, helpful article! Looking forward to scrolling through Etsy results with your tips by my side.

  • Great tips and interesting reading, especially because I am used to think about Etsy from the opposite point of view (I sell my handmade ceramics there).

    May I add one more tip? Look at the “About” section under the Etsy shop name to learn more about the process behind the fabric or item. Unfortunately, there are not clear sections for handmade items and mass-produced ones, so if you are looking for a handwoven or handprinted fabric – or anything handmade – you want to make sure you know what you are buying.

    Also, before purchasing from an Etsy store, check the maker’s website to see if they have their own e-shop: you will often find more items and special offers unique to that platform.
    Most of all, that is the best way to support makers and their work.

    Cheers!
    Rossella

  • Hi Grace, I love this whole post so much! Thank you for sharing – I am wondering where your striped duvet cover is from? I am having a hard time tracking down something like it :)

    Many thanks, Jess

  • I’ve been looking fabric with the pattern exactly like your header board example. What was the pattern name/description you used to find it?

  • I collect vintage fabric and etsy is one of the best places to find a wide variety.

    I had the best score today 15 yards of African mud cloth found today in thrift store for $1.00 per yard I could not believe my good fortune.

    Totally made my day…….

  • I’ve been a huge Etsy fan but have found for my larger quilting or projects I need a lot of different fabric prints. The good news is there are still a few awesome online modern quilting stores (where the prices tend to be more competitive than my local quilt shop).

    One store I keep an eye on is ilovefabric (their sale section here https://www.ilovefabric.com/collections/sale). When fabric designers release their new lines, the previous lines usually go on sale. If you don’t have to have to absolute newest lines, you can pick up some good deals.

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