A Manifesto on Fabric Cutting

April 16, 2009 at 3:32 am 8 comments

There are few things that tick me off in a fabric store more than poorly cut fabric. Ok, the customer that snags that clearance bolt that I wanted kills me. But after that…it’s the mis-cut fabric that I seem to often get from both brick and mortar and online stores.

Every store seems to do it differently. Scissors, rotary cutters, snip and tear…I’ve seen ’em all…and I’ve been hosed by them all. I just finished folding fabrics from 3 different shopping trips and was amused and bemused by the inconsistency in the cuts of fabric I had. To that end, here’s my little manifesto about fabric cuts.

  1. Whatever cutting method you use…use it consistently. Store owners…pick your method, train your employees.
  2. Recognize that you are likely not cutting in a straight line. Look at the piece you just cut from the bolt. If you just take a step back, you can usually see if the cut is really wonky or not.
  3. Grant your consumer a 37″ yard. Sure, they’re only paying for 36″…but that extra inch goes a long way to covering up miscut issues, length lost in pre-washing tangle, and cultivating customer goodwill.
  4. The shortest length of the fabric should be the length requested by the customer. Most stores only look at the side (fold or selvedge) closest to them when cutting. But often, cuts veer inward as you extend your arm which means you may have 36″ near you but only 34″ away from you. I don’t call that a yard.
  5. Slow down. I know it’s tough when the store is packed and you’ve got a bajillion fabrics to slice. But take an extra nano-second to make your cuts in an effort to make them straight and even.
  6. Offer bolt ends at a discount as a continuous cut. A bolt end would be anything shorter than 18″ left on the bolt if you made that final cut. This is easy to eyeball before you cut and it leaves the customer with nice long length and it clears you out of the bolt if they take you up on it.
  7. Keep your cutting area clean. Fabric loves picking up on random gunky bits on tables and it’s terrible to get home only to realize you have an errant ink, ice tea, or envelope glue stain on your beautiful fabric.
  8. Not necessarily related directly to the cut…but please don’t roll your eyes when I bring up a large stack of bolts. You sell fabric. I’m buying fabric. Sure, it may not be fun to cut 14 individual yards, but that’s what you signed up to do. (In return, I promise to try and pace myself and hold back if you’re really busy. Unless it’s a sale. Then all bets are off.)

Of course…the counterpoint to this is probably a code of conduct for us customers. I’ve seen some pretty horrific behavior from customers in stores before that I wouldn’t want to put up with.

So fellow fabric lovers…what say you? Am I being too strident? Did I miss any big things? These are my thoughts on getting yardage cut but there are other peeves I have when I shop for fabric. But that can be for another grumpus day.


Entry filed under: Rant, Sewing, Stash.

Heather Ross, Fabric Shopping, Google, and 15 minutes… Don’t prick your finger

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. candiedfabrics  |  April 16, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Reason # 72 why I dye all my own fabrics! The only commercial fabric I buy nowadays is bought just for having, and I’ll get them from an online store of a careful blogger who give good service (Pink Chalk Studio, J Caroline, etc…) or at a quilt show – those vendor,s usually have either nicely precut stuff, or they take the time to do it right!

  • 2. Thimbleanna  |  April 16, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Great list! I think you missed my pet peeve of tearing fabric. I know it give a straight-of-grain cut, but it damages the surrounding fibers, sometimes, depending on the fabric for several inches. I REALLY cringe when I go to a quilt shop and they’re tearing the fabric!

  • 3. Jamie  |  April 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Loved this list! I get really grumpy when I take my fabric home and realize that selvage edge is smaller than the folded edge.

  • 4. Tanya  |  April 17, 2009 at 12:20 am

    I sincerely hope that The Fabric Shopper or True Up posts your list, or that you have a ton of on-line fabric shop owners that follow your blog! I just experienced the shorter selvage edge on an on-line order and didn’t complain because frankly I was too lazy to email the shop and dreaded the thought of having to package the material back up and go to the post office — so I can’t really complain too much. What I do know is that I was irritated enough that I won’t purchase from that shop again, there are too many other on-line shop options. The only other comment I would make is pretty general regarding customer service, a “thank you” written on an invoice is always noticed (and appreciated) by me.

    Wow – guess I needed to get that off my chest LOL!

  • 5. Beth  |  April 24, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Does anyone else not care to be asked what they plan on doing with their purchased fabric?

    Sometimes I buy fabric for the stash because it’s on sale. Do I really need a reason to buy?

    I know they are trying to make small talk, but it wouldn’t offend me if they didn’t. As long as they are pleasant, they don’t need to “entertain” me.

  • 6. wendyvee  |  April 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I’m with Thimbleanna – I HATE it when they rip/tear instead of finishing the cut.

  • 7. Linda Learn  |  December 18, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    OK, so I’m a fabric merchant. I sell online and I have a brick and mortar for appointments. Why appointments? Because I have a ‘dayjob’.
    In general I agree with you. However, don’t tar all of us with the same brush.
    I treat different fabrics differently. Habotai, most cottons, wool suitings, I will clip and tear….on BOTH ends. These are the fabrics that tend not to ‘pull’ at the torn edges. Loose weaves, linen, uneven thickness threads, brocades, jacquards, I will cut. Woven patterns I’ll cut following the pattern.
    Sometimes I pull a thread. Some fabrics (melton cloth, other woolens, etc) just don’t lend themselves to seeing the weave or pulling a thread and I use a cutting wheel and metal yardstick.
    Yeah, I’m ‘different’….I’m a fabriholic myself and hate those “follow the channel with the scissors” cuts. I’ve gotten those from some fabric supply places and it cuts my bolts short.

    You mention ‘customer courtesy’ ….ok…got some for you.
    1. Don’t come into my shop and ‘dis’ my fabric! If you can get it cheaper at JoAnns, then leave and go there. Just remember: your cuts will be better at MY place.
    2. Remember that fabric merchants are people too, with headaches, children in trouble, families with terminal illnesses. The last customer may have been the ‘customer from Hades’. Cut us some slack and give us a smile.
    3. Questions are not always ‘small talk’. If I ask you about what you’re going to do with a fabric, it may be because it has a ‘quirk’ to handling it….or there may be something in the back that would work better for your purpose… or because I love to hear new ideas. And SOME customers like the chance to talk about their projects.

    There’s really not much you can do with the fabric chains… the clerks have to account for inches on the bolts and the bolts already come with skewed fabric. The outer half of the folded fabric always has the longest way to go around the bolt…with thick fabric that can make one selvedge up to 12 inches off from the other at the outer end.

    It’s annoying, irritating and ‘not fair’ but the only thing you can do is to buy a bit more than you want.

    Our local quilt shop gives an extra inch or two (Quiltworks in Tunkhannock, PA). I sell wool, silk, linen and corset stays mainly to historical costumers.

  • 8. Deb @ Quiltinaday  |  February 7, 2010 at 5:26 am

    I have to agree with Linda Learn on all counts. I clip/tear and cut…if a customer is adament about not tearing I will gladly cut the fabrics for them.

    Personally, If I am at your counter buying cotton by all means I want you to tear it..not all 100 percent cotton is created equally. I can tell if the fabric is high quality, straight on grain and the thread count simply by the way it tears. If it don’t tear straight I sure don’t want to use it in my quilts.

    We have a huge fabric “frenzy” selection of recently discontinued fabrics. Our mission is to provide “healthy” yards. We make sure you have atleast your purchased amount of fabric to work with after (if like me) you wash, dry and iron your fabrics before using them in a project.

    eleanorburns.com and quiltinaday.com


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