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Quality Fabrics in SF Bay Area

TeddyW | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I live on the San Francisco Peninsula. I’ve been sewing forever, but in the last (decade?), I’ve been unable to find the kind of good quality clothing fabric that used to be readily available. I’m not talking about fancy stuff, silks and brocades and such, nor about quilting fabric. I used to make nice shirts, skirts, pants — well, I used to make almost all my own clothes, and many shirts for my husband. Now everything I see is cheap and flimsy, and there’s not much of that.

To point up just one frustration, I’ve been trying to find a nice shirting fabric this summer, just a nice cotton or blend in maybe a stripe or solid, and the quality at the local chain stores is just terrible, not to mention the extremely limited selection. But I know what I want exists! I bought a shirt yesterday from Lands End, a man’s shirt, with lovely, soft cotton exactly like I want! I have sewing friends who share my frustration. Are we simple clothing sewers doomed? You can’t feel or trust colors in online fabric before you buy, and I don’t want to have to go to Britex in the City, where the problem is Overkill, every time I want to shop. I haven’t checked San Jose, but I’m willing.

I don’t want to make wreaths, or quilts, or ribbon dolls, or paint tulips on things, I just want to make a nice tailored shirt! Can anyone help?


  1. ljb2115 | | #1

    This is a website, but try Michael's Fabrics - http://www.michaelsfabrics.com.  I am looking at a grand selection of shirting swatches priced anywhere from $9.00-$15.00/yd.

    Phone# 877-266-8918 (toll free).  Great people to work with and prices seem competitive.  I know what you mean, as I mail order nearly all my quality fabrics.  Most sites will send you swatches on request.  You need to be specific as to type of fabric, colors, will you settle for blends, etc.  I fear that the small independent fashion fabric stores are going the way of the Model T.  Each time one closes, that is the end of an era.  Good luck.

    1. TeddyW | | #2

      Thanks! I checked the website, and it does look better than other online retailers I've looked at. I'll try a swatch set (although it's hard to wait!)

  2. jane4878 | | #3

    farmhousefabrics.com has gorgeous Italian and Swiss shirting. They often have 3 yd bundles for a very good price. I've never been disappointed with anything I've bought from them. Emmaonesock.com has shirtings too, but they can be expensive. That sight is a cruel addiction for me. (NO JANE NO--stop adding to your stash!!!!)


    1. SewistKitty | | #4

      I have ordered from all three of the sites. Michael's Fabrics has great sales. Most of the stuff is on sale now for 50% off. The quality of his fabric is top-notch. I also like Farmhouse Fabrics and have purchased corduroy and other fabrics from them. Again the quality is very good. Emma One Sock is a one woman operation. She has some very fashion forward fabrics as well as traditional fabrics. Her site gives lots of instructions on the care and feeding of your fabric. I would also recommend Gorgeous Fabrics which I have also used. She has lots of shirting material as well as wools, silks, knits, etc. Her sales are frequent and usually on the weekends. So much fabric, so little time.

      1. TeddyW | | #6

        Thanks! With all this help, I'm going to fire up the old credit card and rebuild my stash! (Though I need to make room somehow beside my yarn and spinning fiber stashes. Yikes.)

    2. TeddyW | | #5

      Thank you so much, Jane. I now have hope.Teddy

  3. sewslow67 | | #7

    If you want a local shop in SF, then check out "Satin Moon" fabrics.  They are a small, specialty shop and have the most delicious fabrics ever, including wonderful cotton shirtings.  Also, Britex is huge there and has just about anything most gals would ever want.

    I've shopped at both stores and always find something wonderful but, I have to admit, I haven't been in SF for a few years so don't know what they offer right now.  Either way, I'm sure you'd enjoy the experience and discover at least a few "must-haves".  Good luck ...and enjoy!

    1. TeddyW | | #8

      Thanks! I find Britex overwhelming, but a button-crazed friend sometimes makes me go up there. Will check out Satin Moon.

      1. sewslow67 | | #9

        You are most welcome.  I hope you find what you are looking for ...and more.  Either way, enjoy.

  4. User avater
    artfulenterprises | | #10

    If you're in the mood for an outing, there is a wonderful fabric store in Sonoma County, in Healdsburg (on the town square) called "Fabrications". While they carry primarily high end cottons, beautiful challis, elegant silks, they also carry some hard to find quality goods such as fine lawn, organdy, (and other old time heirloom fabrics) also cords and flannels and shirtings that are exceptional, and other surprises. It is a small store, so don't expect inventory with great depth, just an unusual assortment of goods. It's in a charming old building so the lighting is poor but the ladies will help you carry a bolt outside to check it in full daylight! It's worth a day in wine country even if you don't find exactly what you're looking for! You can check out the antique shops, go wine tasting and have lunch, right there in the square. After you bundle up your new stash of course.

    1. TeddyW | | #11

      Thank you! What a wonderful idea, and just the sort of trip that would be fun, even without buying fabric!

      1. simokon | | #12

        Over in the East Bay there is Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley (as a bonus, it's not far from Lacis, which has many obscure and/or hard to find notions in addition to lacemaking and embroidery supplies - worth the side trip if you are in the area).There is also a JoAnn's "superstore" in Fremont (on Auto Mall) that has a substantially larger stock of garment fabrics than the average strip mall location. It's even clean and adequately staffed. Worth a look if you're passing by.

        1. TeddyW | | #13

          Thanks! I seem to recall a decent Joann's in Woodland near Davis, also. Still wish I could just drive someplace close-ish, buy fabric, and come home and sew. Those days are apparently gone. Sigh. I think I'll try some of the online sources people have suggested here. But thanks!

          1. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #15

            You mentioned cottons but if you're looking for quality goods on the Peninisula, there's Thai Silks in Los Altos (they also have a second store in Los Altos, downtown, which my brain will not release the name of at the moment. (same company two different names). They offer all kinds of gorgeous silks from noil to hard to find jersey knits.

          2. TeddyW | | #16

            Thanks very much -- I actually have shopped at Thai Silks (which I think is called also Exotic Silks, or is that at a different location?) In fact, I just took 6 yards of silk (raw silk? silk shantung? what do they call it now?) I bought there out of a dyebath and hung it to dry. I was going to make Roman shades, but decided to make a a shirt out of it, so I dyed it royal blue, since I'd rather wear that color than the dusty green I planned for the shades.Since I started this post to find fabric for a specific pattern, maybe I should mention it -- McCall's M5433 is a classic shirt, which can easily be lengthened to make a shirtdress, and I think it is a terrific design. Two caveats: I weigh about 116, and I had to make a size 12 to get the right fit. Also, the sleeves are in need of more ease around the lower arms (I'm fit, but I'm not The Hulk). But the collar and band, and the classic fit are wonderful. My blue Thai Silk is destined for this pattern, with altered sleeves.

          3. User avater
            artfulenterprises | | #17

            You are right...Exotic Silks is the other store name. Shantung will make a beautiful shirt. Sounds gorgeous. Enjoy your project!

  5. lindalouise | | #14

    Wow, what a good response you received. I wonder the same thing about finding higher quality fabric stores. In live in Costa Mesa, about 40 miles from Los Angles. I understand Moods which is the store Project Runway uses is good. I know of the fashion district but it does not seem to be an area I would want to go to alone.

    If anyone has Southern California suggestions I would appreciate them.

  6. kelker | | #18

    San Francisco is famous for Britex Fabrics -- have you tried there?  My husband earned many, many husband points while we were on a business trip there.  He patiently waited while I shopped and shopped and shopped!  I can't wait to take another trip to San Fran (I live in MO) -- Britex will certainly be on my list of places to go.

    1. TeddyW | | #19

      Yes, Britex is amazing, and for me, overwhelming. The City seems more than I can manage, although I'm sure I'm just being a parking wimp. I'm also very slow to decide, so it's difficult to go to a place like Britex and focus. I must overcome that! Thanks!Teddy

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