Palmer and Pletsch have clear directions for buying the cloth for your SWAP. You determine your best colors according to your natural body colors. You go to the fabric store and find an excellent neutral from your list of best colors. You find a perfect print containing that color and at least one other color that you really love. You drape the fabric around yourself to see how it looks, enlisting the help of a friend or a mirror to determine whether it is truly becoming. You carry this bolt around the store and find coordinating fabrics.

If you don’t find all the fabrics you need — and this may be my favorite part — you take that bolt back and start over.

These ladies don’t live in a little town like mine. They live in a town with enormous fabric stores stuffed with lots and lots of wonderful fabrics.

Anyway, once you have lined all your coordinates up on the counter, you buy 8 yards of your basic neutral so you can make a three-piece suit. You buy 5 yards of your print for that 2-piece dress. Then you buy 2 or 3 yards of each of the others for tops and skirts or pants.

These ladies also don’t have a budget like mine. I agree with their instruction to buy the best fabrics you can afford, but I would have to scale down a lot if I bought the best fabrics I could afford for 11 garments all at one time. However, I am sure that they are correct that this would be the best way to ensure that your SWAP goes together with maximum efficiency.

I have bought all the fabrics for my SWAP. I had to do that before the first tuition payment came due, because now I will not be able to buy anything again for four years, as I mentioned.

I have two local fabric stores. Mostly they have quilting cotton and synthetics. I did find some nice fabrics in those stores, and even some on the clearance table, but my local choices are very limited. So I bought most of my fabrics online. I used three different companies. Let me share my experience with you.

I want to say first that all the companies I tried — as well as SewSassy and Keepsake Quilting, the other online fabric companies I have experience with — were quick, courteous, and accurate. Apart from the obvious disadvantages to buying fabrics without seeing them first, the online fabric-shopping experience is excellent.

paisley

Candlelight Valley Fabrics has the best website, no question. They have the most information on their fabrics, including sewing hints, care instructions, suggestions for the best amount of ease, and photos both flat and draped. Their site is easy to navigate, you can sign in and they will remember you for the future, and everything is very clear and easy.

mushroom aubergine

They also have a really nice arrangement for finding coordinates. I got my print there, as well as my basic neutral, mushroom, and an aubergine jersey for a top. They suggested lilacs and greens to go with this fabric, too.

Yes, I have noticed the preponderance of gray in my wardrobe. Taupe and camel are big for fall, and this “mushroom” seemed like my best shade for the general earth-tone resurgence. And yes, I have noticed that it is pretty close to being gray.

This is not an inexpensive place, but I felt that their prices were appropriate, and shipping was not outrageous. They do not offer patterns, notions, or any of that sort of thing, but their selection of fabrics is wide. Had I been determined to use the Palmer and Pletsch method of fabric shopping, I could actually have done it at this shop, and they even have nice lingerie fabrics, so I could have made slips and linings and stuff from the recommended coordinates.

They included nice large swatches with my order. In their place, I would have chosen swatches that went with what I had ordered, but the ones they sent certainly confirmed the quality of their fabrics.

 

Emma One Sock (EOS to the sewing bloggers) has the best service. I have no complaints about anyone’s service, but EOS sends you free swatches, answers complex questions, gives you a discount on your first order, accepts checks, and all that sort of thing that we associate with humans rather than computers. They told me about my discount after I had already sent the check, and I asked them to make up the difference by adding a bit of length to the fabric. They not only figured out what I was asking and agreed to it, but also were generous with their calculations.

Most online fabric stores will sell you swatches, by they way, and they help a lot. EOS sent three swatches to me for free very quickly, and I was able to check the colors with the fabrics I already had, to compare the quality with what was available locally, and to make my order while the fabrics were still in stock.

cluny-lace

They have amazing fabrics, such as this French cotton Cluny lace. In fact, they seem to specialize in amazing fabrics. I could not have bought all the fabrics for my SWAP there, but perhaps a more adventurous person (Kali Mama?) could. I don’t actually know what I am going to make with this lace, but I look forward to thinking of something. It is beautiful with the other fabrics, and may add a needed jolt of surprise to my sensible (gray) wardrobe.

sterling

Fashion Fabrics Club has the best selection and prices. They may not actually have the best values — EOS offers that lace for $18 a yard, an amazing price — but they do have lots of fabrics from $1.99 up. They have lots of specials they will gladly email you about, and they send you coupons and swatches in the mail.

They carry interfacing, thread (they’ll match the color for you), and some trims, as well as Italian scarves and some notions. Actually, you never know what they’ll have. They have very high turnover, so if you see something you think you want, you should order it then. Chances are it will be gone next time you look.

Since they are a discount place, you should expect some differences from the more luxurious sites. Sometimes they accept an order and then ship with a notice that one of the fabrics is sold out. Sometimes a fabric is not what you expected. For example, I bought two fabrics for my SWAP Part II, both labeled “Tencel Twill” and described in identical terms except for color. One was beautiful, but the other was a looser weave and had odd striations that I had to cut around, thus losing some yardage.

I think this goes with the discount aspect of the business. I’ve ordered from these folks several times, though, and expect to continue ordering from them. I bought a couple of shades of linen for blouses for the SWAP Part III.

And I suppose they do both appear gray. I think that they are blue and green, but they do seem to confirm the general overall grayness of my wardrobe.

Good thing I have burgundy in there.

paisley2

I also want to report that I bought some fabric at a local shop when I picked up my hem tape. #2 daughter specifically forbade me to buy this fabric last year when it first came out (part of a general embargo on paisleys, which I have largely ignored), but when I saw a skirt length on the remnant table, I gave in. I include it  in recognition of the fact that much fabric is bought in a spirit of irrational enthusiasm unconnected to our best-laid plans.

Palmer and Pletsch say clearly “Do not even look at anything that is not in your palette,” and this is good advice. People who follow their advice will have all their SWAP fabrics and no too-bright paisley corduroy which will clash with their other fabrics. But I think that I will enjoy this in a long gored skirt in the winter when I have been wearing a lot of gray.