Sourcing Fabrics – Internationally

The internet is a marvelous creation in allowing you to source fabulous fabrics from far-flung destinations you have no inclination to visit in person. In my quest to seek out new material and new haberdashery goods I’ve boldly gone where only the brave have gone before. My journeys to bring the new and exotic to StowBags customers have included delicate negotiations, in my limited Spanish, in Seville, and rummaging through ribbons in Cracow. Due to the weight restrictions on budget airlines it wouldn’t be practical to bring fabrics back from my travels nestling amongst my flip flops and travel iron so the I let the world wide web take the strain.

Over recent months I’ve come across the wonder that is For a fabric fanatic it is an Aladdin’s cave of just about everything you could ever want and has inspired me in a host of ways. I particularly like the range of funky and unusual patterned corduroys which have been popular in my Spring and Autumn messenger bags. and Patterned corduroy is very difficult to track down in the UK and it’s sometimes nice to escape the plain and have some fun with pattern.

On first appearance, sourcing fabrics from the US seems to be really inexpensive. There are, however, some things you need to bear in mind. Whilst sites might offer free P&P when you spend over a certain amount this invariably doesn’t cover international shipping. You will also be liable for import tax and I I remember well the unpleasant shock when my first shipment incurred a bill of around £40. Big savings are unlikely but you will be able to find fabrics simply not available from UK suppliers.

Using European companies will not incur the nasty shocks when the UPS guy knocks on your door but I’ve had some problems with a couple of EU companies with a rather interesting take on customer service. They’ve given me a delivery date, and then things go out of stock and they wait for them to come back in, and then they don’t, and then they wonder whether to send or not send the remainder…. I think you get the idea. I also dabbled, briefly, in ordering fabric from China. At first the price seemed very good but you need to pay extra for expedited delivery and a standard delivery time of several weeks makes it completely impractical when so much of my work is bespoke. I also prefer to support UK business wherever possible.

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