- Do some research as to which stores are located in your area.
If you’re in America you can look up national chain locations such as Joann Fabrics or Hobby Lobby, or regional chain locations such as Hancock Fabrics in the Southeast.
If you’re in Canada you can look up national chain locations of Fabricland or Fabricville (depending on the Frenchiness of your location).
In both America and Canada, Michael’s craft stores carry a wide variety of sewing supplies but only a small selection of actual fabric. Walmart and Target (RIP Canadian Target) also carry sewing machines and occasionally carry fabric and sewing supplies in their craft section (but it can vary greatly between stores/regions).
If you live in a big city see if there is a fashion, textile or fabric district and look on various sites such as Yelp for reviews on various locations.
- Look through your local flyers and check online to see if any of the stores in your area have coupons or if they are having any sales. Also see if any of your stores offer discounts for paid memberships. I had a Fabricville membership that cost $20 CAN/year and got me a ton of savings with or without sales. I would say I saved about $300 on fabric last year alone.
- Print out or bring references of the outfit that you are making.
Also bring the pattern package or take a picture of the back for the pattern(s) you will be using. I liked to circle my sizes in pencil on the back of my pattern envelopes then take a picture to save in my phone so I could remember how much of each type of fabric I would need and what types of fabric and interfacing the pattern suggested. Having references and pattern information also can really help if you’re trying to find a specific type of fabric and need to ask an employee to assist you. If you’re embarrassed to say you’re making a costume for a “nerd convention” I would sometimes just say I was a fashion or theatre student working on a project to avoid having to constantly explain myself to nosey employees. Also you’d be surprised how many cosplayers work at chain fabric stores. If you got to any chain fabric store in Canada or the US I can almost guarantee you’ll find at least 1 cosplayer, theatrical costumer, or die-hard renaissance faire-goer working there who would be more than stoked on discussing wacky costumes projects.
- Bring a friend with you.
Shopping for fabric in a large chain store can be overwhelming. Shopping for fabric in a fashion district with 3 dozen stores with fabric piled 8 feet high can be extremely overwhelming. Bring a friend. Not only can they act as a second opinion when it comes to choosing colors/textures/patterns, but you can also divide and conquer bigger stores if you have time constraints. Plus they can also help boost your confidence if you’re a naturally shy or introverted person but need help from the store employees. Oh and they can also be a pack mule but don’t abuse the pack mule clause or they might not want to help much after a couple trips haha.