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Shopping for fabric can be a bewildering experience if you're not prepared. Whether you're sewing window treatments, slipcovers, or bedding, a fabric store can help you devise your decorating plan. Be sure to browse the store first to gain a sense of the quality and variety of the goods. When you're ready to buy, use these shopping tips for purchasing the right fabric for the right price:

  • Some discount stores or wholesale fabric retailers "do better" on the price if you're buying in bulk. If you're buying a lot of fabric for a project, first ask for the price per yard. After the sales clerk tells you, ask again, saying, "What if I buy 10 yards?" You almost always get a better price!

  • When buying more than a yard or two of fabric, ask the vendor to unroll the whole bolt so you can check for fabric flaws. If you're paying a special "by the bolt" price, roll out and measure the entire bolt to be sure that the bolt really has enough on it for your projects; bolt bulk can be deceiving.

  • Test your fabric's quality. Pull a bit of the fabric at the end where it was previously cut to see if it unravels easily. If it does, don't buy it!

  • Create a "color notebook" with your room components and bring it with you to the store. Add swatches of fabrics and trims that exist in the room, some paint swatches from your walls, a picture of the furniture you plan to treat, and a photo of the room you're decorating. Record your furniture's and window's dimensions in the book. This notebook lets you visualize everything, and you can quickly refer to it with salespeople.

  • Consult the bolt or cylinder tag for all the information you need to know about the fabric you're considering. This tag includes the price per yard, fiber content, care instructions, fabric width, and the company name that made the fabric.

  • If you're unsure of a fabric's color, texture, or design suitability, ask the vendor to cut you a swatch to take home, so you can test it "on-site." Staple each swatch to a page of your color notebook and add the business card of the store where you bought it, along with the price per yard, so you know how much it is and where to buy it for future reference.

  • Always keep a measuring tape with you so you can double-check width. Some fabric may be missing its bolt tag, and bolt tags have been known to lie.

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions and spend as much time as you need to make the right choice for your project. Fabric shopping is meant to be enjoyable, so look at, touch, and even smell the fabrics, and, of course, have fun!

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