Fabric and Finances

Fabric and Finances

If you are new to sewing and doll making you may be experiencing a bit of "sticker shock" with the prices of fabrics these days. In America we are currently experiencing a large issue with high prices throughout our economy in the purchasing of anything, so it is not surprising that fabrics are also becoming expensive. While some price hikes are inevitable, I would like to share with you my opinion on fabrics, prices, and quality today. I will help you navigate ways to save money and to still make very lovely dolls using my patterns! 

If you know anything about Heartfelt Doll Patterns then you know that I designed all of my patterns with the beginner seamstress in mind. My company was created because I was unable at the time, to find truly simple patterns that really were created for a "newbie" to sewing and doll making. So, this being said if I really am in the business of helping the novice doll maker then I must also give you some wisdom I have learned. The first thing I would like to share with you is that you are going to make mistakes. AND I want to say that making mistakes is just fine, it is part of the learning process. When I say "make mistakes" what do I mean? Well mistakes can be a wide variety of things such as cutting your fabric too small, or ruining a doll arm and you need to cut it out again. Mistakes involving fabric can become quite costly if you are purchasing fabrics that are of higher price points. It is really hard to throw away a project that was around $20 per yard verses a fabric that only costs $5 per yard. While this may sound quite obvious, I see daily other doll pattern makers encouraging their clientele to purchase very expensive fabrics. I have two schools of thought regarding the necessity of purchasing fabrics that are spendy. First if you are desiring to make a doll that is to be kept as an heirloom doll that will be passed down through your family then I would recommend purchasing higher quality fabrics. If though, you are creating a doll for your 3-year-old to play with I would recommend using fabrics that are what I call midrange fabrics. I raised 8 children so I understand that children when they are playing with their toys can be rough at times with them however, I also know that children can outgrow their toys long before they wear them out. Midrange fabrics are very suitable for doll making and using my patterns. When I started sewing dolls I did so because my oldest granddaughter was very excited about unicorns. I made her two adorable unicorn dolls fully equipped with doll shoes and skirts. She loved the dolls and played with them but now she's outgrown her love of unicorns and is into anything soccer. She still has her unicorn sitting on her bookshelf as a fun memory of her Grammy sewing it for her and the fabric is just fine, in fact it looks new still. 

Let's talk about I call "midrange" fabrics. I recommend all of my dolls to be made from 100% cotton fabrics or cotton blends. I live in a rural community but even so we have several stores that sell fabrics, and we have a couple of high-end quilt shops that sell designer fabrics. Fabrics that may be purchased at JoAnn's Fabric, Michael's, or Hobby Lobby, these are midrange in quality, variety, and price. If you are looking for something very specific sometimes it is really hard to find it at JoAnn's. I am a gingham fiend. I LOVE ginghams! When I was young you could find ginghams everywhere all the time, well not so now a days. JoAnn's will get them in for spring and I always grab several different colors and stash them away. Mostly these ginghams are done with print, not a woven design. At first this really bothered me, but now, I have accepted that I am "getting what I pay for." I do love a true woven fabric and I occasionally go to my local quilt shop and pay three times the price of JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby to get it. I am not picking on these higher end stores, I do agree that the fabric I purchase at the quilt shops are much higher quality but for my purposes it doesn't really matter. I am making toys for children who will outgrow them in a few years. A midrange fabric may be thinner meaning the thread count is lower, have the design printed on it, and have the colors not be as bright and intense.  I am writing this post in 2024 and I can go to any of the big box fabric sellers like Michael's, Hobby Lobby, or JoAnn's and purchase fabrics for as low as $4.99 a yard and even lower sometimes! Rarely do I pay over $7.99 per yard at these stores. My dolls only need around 1/3-1/4 a yard of fabric so this is a very inexpensive way to make doll clothes and a doll body. I love that I can buy 4 different coordinating fabrics and still be around five dollars per yard. I also have learned in places like JoAnn's where I frequent quite often, that if I stick to solids, stripes, ginghams, and dots I get the classic childlike look I am searching for, and the prices are very low. I then add in some fun florals to add zip to my dolls or clothing and accessories. Midrange fabrics are wonderful because the price points are low but I still get some quality for my money. At places like JoAnn's I am careful with fat-quarters. Many times, they are brought in rather than being cut by the company whereas quilt shops will cut their own fat-quarters so you get a high quality fabric still. The fat quarters I use from JoAnn's I really look over carefully. I sometimes only use them in tutorials because the print is cute but the quality isn't great. As you are looking through the fat-quarters just be picky. 

Of course, going to a specialty shoppe you are going to get gorgeous fabrics and they will last a long time. Also if you are used to or love a certain fabric designer you will only find their wares in a specialty shoppe! Another perk of using specialty shoppes is that the workers there are almost always experienced seamstresses and can lend a lot of helpful tips! You really do get what you pay for there. I love to go to these fun quilt shoppes and get little nuggets of fabric to help set off my midrange fabrics. I mix them together and I use specialty fabrics sort of like spices in cooking. They enhance what I am doing rather than being the entire projects focal point. I have used higher end fabrics exclusively on some projects and the sales receipt reflected that. I recently made my grandchildren some Christmas stockings that I quilted. The fabric alone was $112! My daughter in law was looking for something very specific so I was willing to do it for her, and well, after all I am the Grammy and you know, I wanted to spoil my grandchildren! :0)

What I want to teach here is that you do not need to spend a ton of money on fabric. Especially if you are new to sewing. I would hope you would feel comfortable using midrange fabrics. I follow many doll makers, without exception when giving advice about fabrics they steer their followers to purchase very expensive fabrics stating that they last longer, and they look better. I agree but I also am of the mind that it matters what you are making the doll for. It also matters your skill level. My mother was a professional seamstress for many years. When she made my wedding dress, we purchased fabric that cost $25 per yard, and I got married in 1989! It was VERY expensive back then. My mom didn't go home and cut into that fabric; she actually made a mockup dress out of muslin prior to making my actual dress. Even she understood that mistakes will be made and why make them on outrageously expensive fabric? There is no shame in purchasing fabric at Walmart! I have done it tons of times and I make adorable dolls just fine with it. 

So, in closing here, decide if you want the doll you are making to be an heirloom piece or an actual toy for your child. Also realize your sewing level and purchase fabrics that have price points that will not break your budget if you make a mistake with them. Use fabrics that are durable like cottons or cotton blends. Read through your pattern carefully prior to cutting into any fabric to avoid making mistakes where you may possibly ruin a piece of fabric and lastly, have fun purchasing your fabric. I think the design part is so much fun! Purchase colors and patterns that you enjoy working with and that your doll's future owner will love! Keep your budget in mind and don't get drawn into what I call a "Snob-Mob" mentality where you feel like you must buy the higher end fabrics. Making dolls should not be stressful, it should be fun and relaxing....and not break the bank! 

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