A lot of times, when I begin thinking about a project, I have a particular fabric in mind before I start. Unfortunately, my local brick and mortar stores don’t always have exactly what I want. So, I often have to turn to shopping online to get the material I’m searching for. If you haven’t shopped for material online before, this can often be a nerve wracking experience―probably the biggest concern is, “How do I know what kind\quality\etc. material I’ll be getting if I can’t touch it?” I’ve found a majority of fabric sites do a great job describing fabric: How much stretch it has, it’s weight, ideas on how it can be used, etc. Some sites even go as far as providing the Pantone color present in the fabric and patterns that would work best with the material. However, even with all this information, it’s still important to become familiar with names of particular fabrics and\or weights (for example when buying denim) so you get the right fabric for the project you’re looking for. If you’re unsure about the material, invest in a good book such as Simplicity Fabric Guide or Sandra Betzina’s More Fabric Savvy, which not only help with describing fabric (especially when you can’t touch them), but their uses and how to sew with them. You can also contact the retailer with any questions you may have, although beware―some sites sell out of some materials fast and may be gone before you get your answer!
Another important question you may be asking is, “How do I know this is a reliable storefront?” The best way to answer that is “word-of-mouth.” If you consistently see your favorite blogs or websites purchasing from specific retailers (including ebay or Etsy sellers) or mentioned in discussion threads, then chances are you’ll have a great experience as well. Don’t be afraid to start a discussion thread yourself to get feedback from other people before you buy.
“What about coupons?” I’ll admit, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hancock Fabrics, and even Hobby Lobby have spoiled me with coupons. With just a few exceptions, most online retailers do not run coupon\Internet code specials. They do, however, occasionally run sales on select items and sometimes the entire “store”. The best way to catch these is to sign up for their newsletter, Facebook, and\or twitter page.
“If I don’t like what I get, can I return it?” All stores have different policies, be sure to check the FAQ section of their site to see if they handle returns and\or have a restocking fee. I have found, however, a majority of retailers are willing to work with you and have excellent customer service.